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Our Debt to Greece and Rome 


George Depue Hadzsits, Ph.D. 
David Moore Robinson, Ph.D., LL.D* 



BY ^ 






Published 1963 by Cooper Square Publishers, Inc. 

59 Fourth Avenue, New York 3, N.Y. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-10272 




I. Homeric Poetry and its Preser- 
vation 3 

II. Homer and Traditions in Homer i6 

III. Translations of Homer ... 32 

IV^ The Iliad 41 

V. The Odyssey 54 

VI. The Reach of his Genius ... 68 

VII. Proteus in English Literature 83 
VIII. Homer Among the Ancient 

Greeks 93 

IX. Homer and Roman Italy . . . 102 

X. Homer and the Renaissance . 122 

XI. Homer and England 131 

XII. Homer and his Permanent In- 
fluence 159 

Notes and Bibliography ... 165 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 




THE history of Greek literature begins 
with a double mystery, the mystery 
of the creation and the mystery of the 
preservation of the Homeric poems. 

Homer is the sole literary representative of^ 
the heroic age, not a verse from earlier or from 
contemporary poets has survived. The names 
^W these early poets have shared in the fate 
of their poetry, and there is little doubt that 
the songs of Musaeus, Linus, and Orpheus 
were never sung and that these names repre- 
sent nothing more than fabulous poets. 

Wonderful as is the fact that the Iliad and 
the Odyssey, with a combined length of almost 
twenty-eight thousand verses, should have sur- 
vived the dark centuries which lay between 
Homer and the period of Athenian supremacy, 
it is hardly more wonderful than the second 



fact that the Homeric poetry is the only poetry 
which survived essentially intact those other 
dark centuries which lay between Aristotle 
and the modern revival of learning. 

Such famous names as Archilochus, Sappho, 
Alcaeus, and Simonides are hardly more than 
names, since they are known merely by the 
happy accident of chance quotation or torn 
papyri, while many of the successful dramatic 
competitors in the great days of the Athenian 
theater are hardly as much as names. Even 
Sophocles, the favorite in that great era, al- 
though he wrote more than one hundred 
plays, survives with but seven; the rest are 
lost or in fragments. 

The Homer known to Plato, Aristotle, and 
the illustrious scholars of Alexandria is prac- 
tically the same Homer which is known to us; 
a thing which is true of no other poet of early 
or of classical Greece. 

All of the Greek poets whose poetry has 
escaped oblivion owe that escape to isolated 
passages or to fortuitous references in late 
writers, or to few and incomplete manuscripts, 
all except Homer. The complete manuscripts 
of Homer are almost without number, so many 
are they that the Oxford Edition of Homer is 



based on nearly one-hundred-and-fifty manu- 
scripts, most of which are good, so good that 
almost any two or three would suffice to estab- 
lish the Homeric text/ All these manuscripts 
are reinforced by constantly increasing masses 
of papyri and by a practically unlimited num- 
ber of quotations in the works of Greek and 
Latin authors. 

Homer is sometimes referred to as the poet 
of other early epic poems as well as of the* 
Iliad and the Odyssey, but he is never defi- 
nifeTy thus mentioned by writers of the best 
period. Aristotle and the scholars of Alex- 
andria always drew a distinction between the 
poetry of Homer and the other poems of the 
early epic cycle. 

Late writers frequently quote as from 
Homer verses and phrases which are not to 
be found in the Iliad and the Odyssey y hence 
has grown up the assumption that these verses 
belonged to Homeric poems which are now lost. 
Homer by his very eminence became an easy 
source for all kinds of poetic quotations, some 
of which are luckily to be found in other early 
poems of known authors: Macrobius, Satur- 
nalia, V. 1 6. 6 says that Homer stuffed his 
poetry with proverbs, then he quotes six ex- 



amples of this stuffing, two of which are to be 
found not in Homer but in the Works and Days 
of Hesiod. Even so learned a writer as the 
Emperor Julian quoted as from Homer a verse 
which belongs to this same Works and Days,^ 

The best early authorities discuss the fact 
that Homer never tells except by allusions the 
events which began and closed the Trojan 
War, and their reasoning is of such a nature 
as to prove that there was then no well- 
established belief in the Homeric authorship 
of the poems of the Cycle. 

The people of Colophon erected a statue to 
Homer and engraved thereon: "Thou didst 
bring forth with thy divine soul two daugh- 
ters, two poems in honor of heroes, the one 
telling of the return of Odysseus, the other of 
the war at Ilium." ^ 

The references to Homer as the author of 
epic poems other than the Iliad and the 
Odyssey are so vague, so dependent on difficult 
interpretation of doubtful passages, and so at 
variance with the clear affirmations of the 
most reliable ancient authorities that it is 
hardly possible for Homer's name to have been 
connected with these epics until in compara- 
tively late times. 



Most Homeric scholars disagree with me in 
this and think the Cycle was regarded as 
Homeric in the Early Classical period. 

Antiquity assigned to the youth of Homer 
a comic or satirical poem, the Margites. The 
hero of this poem was a stupid youth who 
" knew many things, and knew them all 
badly." This poem was probably a bit of 
farce and may well have been a youthful 
caricature drawn by the same hand which 
later sketched a Thersites and a Polyphemus. 
We cannot with the scanty fragments as evi- 
dence challenge the judgment of Aristotle who 
unhesitatingly assigned the Margites to Homer. 

The Batrachomyomachia, Battle of the 
Frogs and the Mice, is often mentioned as 
Homeric and it is sometimes printed along 
with the other poetry of Homer. This poem 
is a parody on the Iliad, a parody in which 
frogs and mice arm, speak, and fight in the 
grand manner of the Homeric heroes. It is 
an exceedingly clever poem, but the language 
shows evidence of being far later than the 
language of Homer, while there are allusions 
to events which could not be earlier than the 
sixth century. This poem is Homeric only in 
so far as it is a parody on Homer and written 



in the dialect of the early epic. No competent 
authority has ever assigned the Batrachomyo- 
machia to Homer. 

There is also a group of thirty-four hymns, 
the so-called Homeric Hymns, written in the 
dialect and meter of Homer. These hymns 
appear to have been used to introduce the 
recitation of other longer poems and to have 
been composed in honor of the divinity or hero 
at whose festival the bard was singing. Some 
of these hymns might have been the only 
song then sung, but the shortest could have 
been nothing more than an introduction to a 
longer poem. Thucydides quotes one of these 
hymns as if it were composed by Homer, but 
the language is clearly much later than that 
of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and although we 
for convenience, as well as Thucydides, speak 
of these hymns as Homeric, we cannot regard 
them as the work of Homer. 

A few minor epigrams, riddles, and the like 
have found a place in the complete works of 
Homer, but they are universally regarded as 
late and spurious. 

From earliest times the reputation of Homer 
Eas depended on but two poems, the Iliad and_ 
The Odyssey^ and these two poems in essen- 

[8] "" 


tially their present form. We thus have all 
the evidence in forming our estimate of his 
ability that was known to the ancients, except 
the lost poetry of the epic cycle. However, 
we have the decided advantage of the new 
sciences of archaeology and of comparative 
linguistics; also we can understand Homer 
better by reason of the rediscovery of early 
Cretan, Egyptian, and oriental civilizations. 

The excavations made in Troy, Mycenae, 
Crete, and elsewhere have shown something 
of the civilization and the legends inherited by 
the age of Homer, and we are thus assisted 
in visualizing the life he described and in esti- 
mating the sort of material with which the 
poet worked. By the help of comparative 
linguistics we are able to restore a lost conso- 
nant and to explain many seeming metrical 
irregularities which were the despair of ancient 
scholars, while the recently won knowledge 
of oriental civilizations has solved the difficult 
problem of writing in Homer and has shown 
the strong bonds binding early Aegean and 
Asiatic life and traditions.* 

A large part of the contributions to Homeric 
scholarship during the last century and a 
quarter has been concerned with the problem 



of the origin of these poems, that is, whether 
the Iliad and the Odyssey are each a unit and 
both the work of the same genius or whether 
they are the product of many bards working 
through several generations. 

The controversy is still unsettled, but there 
has been a great change in recent years and 
most scholars now agree that these poems 
picture essentially the same civilization, the 
same general theology, and that they repre- 
sent the same stage of linguistic and literary 

Those who believe in one Homer and those 
who believe in many are alike forced to rely 
on something akin to a miracle, and the point 
at issue is simply this: Is it more reasonable 
to suppose that there was one supreme genius 
who created two such similar and stupendous 
works of art, or that there were many such 
poets, each master of the same grand style, 
and all having the same poetic purposes and 
all in control of the same poetic powers? 

Greece never had the slightest doubt that 
these two poems were the creation of a single 
man, and it seems best for us in company with 
all antiquity to believe that early Hellas had 
one poet capable of creating these two poems, 



rather than that she had several men gifted 
with any such powers, and then forgot them. 

Not all parts of Homeric poetry are of the 
same merit, and it is easy to pick out scenes 
in which there seems little energy and inspira- 
tion, but no three parts of these poems show 
such diversities as are shown by The Two 
Gentlemen of Verona, Hamlet, and A Mid- 
summer-Night's Dream. 

The observation has been made by compe- 
tent critics that Homer has more sustained 
grandeur and less variation than Shakespeare. 

It is probable that Homer had no rivals in 
his own age, and also that he had no prede- 
cessors who could have begun, as he had no fol- 
lowers who could have completed his poems. 
Such writers as Dante, Cervantes, Shake- 
speare, and Milton may have had associates, 
but the works on which their fame is based 
were not done in collaboration. 

The French Chansons de Geste, with their 
numberless songs around a common heroic 
theme, seem to have all the necessary con- 
ditions for a great epic poem, all but the great 
epic poet himself. They probably represent 
much the same stage of poetry as would have 
been represented by early Greece in its songs 



and epic cycle, if Homer had not been. The 
Ballads of Spain have been called '^ Iliads with- 
out Homer." It is just the one fact of Homer 
that gives glory to heroic Greece.^ 

In all the great ages of literature the out- 
standing achievements have been the work of 
single individuals and not of schools, groups, 
or masses of inspired and creative singers. 

The plan and the workmanship of the Iliad 
and the Odyssey show that they were each 
conceived as a whole and were not the result 
of gradual or fortuitous additions. It is also 
evident that they have never been subjected 
to any serious or lasting revision and that no 
one ever had the power and the will to improve 
or to rewrite them.® 

Some simple proofs that Homer has never 
been subjected to serious revision are these: 
Pylaemenes was slain in the action of the fifth 
book of the Iliad, but he is alive to mourn the 
death of a son in the thirteenth book. This 
contradiction regarding a subordinate charac- 
ter would have seemed a trifle to the original 
poet, but would have been a serious matter to 
revisers, as it has been to all the critics, and 
had it been in the power of the revisers they 
would certainly have removed that contradic- 



tion. The change of a single word in the first 
passage or the addition of a negative in the 
second would have been all that was needed, 
but that slight revision was not made. 

Odysseus in the presence of the Phaeacians 
boasted that he was the best archer of all the 
Greeks who fought at Troy; yet when the 
contest in archery was held in the Games of 
the Iliady Odysseus did not even compete, al- 
though he had been a contestant in several 
events. Homer did not care about this dis- 
crepancy, as the hero was simply engaging 
in some epic boasting, but nervous revisers, 
without the fires of creative impulse, would 
have removed the difficulty by quietly substi- 
tuting Odysseus for the winning archer in the 
story of the Iliad. 

A like explanation must be given for the 
failure of the poet to mention at the death 
of Hector the fact that he was protected by 
the armor of Achilles, his slayer; also for the 
silence of the same poet regarding the treach- 
ery of Pandarus when he fell at the hands of 

Such passages as these in which the hearer 
is left to fill out the gaps and to draw his own 
inferences, as well as many other unrevised 



inconsistencies, '' Homeric nods," furnish 
abundant evidence for the belief that the 
poetry of Homer has not been seriously re- 
vised or interpolated. 

This evidence is confirmed by the well- 
known conservatism of the Greeks, a conserva- 
tism which banished Onomacritus, a favorite 
of Pisistratus, for adding a verse to the poetry 
of the mythical Musaeus, and which fined 
Lycon, a friend of Alexander, the huge sum of 
ten talents for interpolating a single verse in 
an Attic comedy. 

The Homeric poems could hardly have 
escaped linguistic weathering or modernization, 
also certain stock verses might have been 
added, others dropped or transposed, but with 
these minor exceptions it is probable that no 
change has been made in the text of Homer 
since its creation. It must be remembered 
that the language of Homer is unlike the dia- 
lect of any of the historical peoples of Greece 
and that the most remote Hellenic lands and 
cities all quoted him in his own speech, they 
did not transfer him to their own. 

These two poems are much longer than the 
27,853 verses might imply, and the frequent 
assertion that Spenser's Faerie Queene with its 



35,000 verses is as long as the Iliad, the 
Odyssey, and the Aeneid combined rests on a 
wrong inference. The verse used by Spenser 
has, except the last verse of the stanza, but 
ten syllables, while the shortest possible 
Homeric verse has twelve, the longest seven- 
teen, and the average is between fifteen and 
sixteen. One hundred verses in Homer have 
as many syllables as one-hundred-fifty-five in 
Spenser; therefore the combined length of the 
Iliad and the Odyssey is much greater than 
that of the Faerie Queene. Bryant's transla- 
tion of the Iliad into English pentapody has 
just under 20,000 verses. 

In all these Homeric verses there is not a 
single gap, not one incomplete line, not a verse 
too long or too short, but all ahke have the 
finished mark of the same artist. 



THOUGHTFUL as tradition has been 
of the poems, the poet himself it has 
almost neglected. His name is found 
in no early writings and on no old inscriptions, 
and he is first mentioned as Homer in the writ- 
ings of Xenophanes of Colophon, that is near 
the end of the sixth century B.C., while the 
words Iliad and Odyssey first appear in the 
history of Herodotus, that is in the second half 
of the following century. 

Although the name of Homer was so late in 
appearing in extant literature, no writer of 
early Greece threw any suspicion on the ex- 
istence of a real poet or upon that poet as the 
creator of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. All 
the early Greeks took him as much for granted 
and as familiar as their own mountains and 
streams, so that they seemed to feel no mystery 
concerning him and rarely made a conjecture 
regarding his age, his nativity, or his genius. 


We have no definite facts upon which to 
base a life of Homer but must rely on vague 
inferences drawn from the poems themselves, 
and, as these poems never contain the name 
Homer and seemingly never refer to the place 
of his birth, his age, or his contemporaries, 
even these vague inferences are largely a mat- 
ter of conjecture. It seems strange that Homer 
did not try to win favor for himself by adding 
to his poems the praise of some living poten- 
tate, a trait so pronounced in the poetry of 
Virgil, Horace, and Tennyson. 

The absence of definite local descriptions re- 
garding the place of his nativity and the great 
reputation of his poems led many cities to 
claim him as their own. Among the various 
cities claiming this honor Smyrna's claim has 
been most widely accepted, since the radiation 
of the knowledge of his poems seems to have 
had its center in that city. 

Homer was also called Melesigenes, a name 
evidently derived from the river Meles, a river 
of Smyrna, on whose banks he is said to have 
been born. 

Poets often refer to him as Maeonides, a 
word beautifully adapted for poetry. The 
origin of this name is doubtful; it is sometimes 



derived from Maeonia, an early name for 
Lydia, but it is more likely a true patronymic, 
as his father was supposed to be Maeon, who 
was said to have been both the uncle and the 
father of the poet. 

Next to Smyrna the neighboring island of 
Chios has the best claim for the birthplace of 
the poet, and, even if it be denied this honor, 
it is generally believed to have been the site of 
much of his labors. 

The date of Homer's birth is most uncer- 
tain, since the first known attempt to fix it was 
made by Herodotus who argued that Homer 
had lived about four-hundred years before his 
own time, that is, he assigned Homer to about 
850 B.C. 

The recent discoveries in pre-Homeric civili- 
zations in and near the Aegean basin, as well 
as the results of linguistic investigations, 
strengthen the ancient belief that Homer was a 
native of Smyrna, also that he lived not far 
from the beginning of the ninth century. 
There is great disagreement among scholars in 
both of these matters, but while it is possible 
that Homer may have lived as early as the 
eleventh century it is hardly possible for him 
to have been later than the ninth. 


Although archaeology in recent years has 
done much to illuminate Homeric poetry, the 
poet himself is as remote and elusive as ever. 

Many attempts have been made to explain 
the name Homer as that of some trait or char- 
acter and not the proper name of an individual, 
asserting that it was a common noun and 
meant a " bhnd man," a '' hostage," or a 
"joiner." The last assumption was made in 
the attempt to prove that Homer was not re- 
garded as a creative poet, but was simply the 
" joiner " who arranged into one the poetry 
already existing. Now it is asserted by those 
who wish to give a Babylonian origin to the 
Iliad and the Odyssey that this is not a Greek 
word at all, but a true Babylonian common 
noun meaning a person who sings. ^ It is the 
beauty of all such theories that the derivation 
of the name Homer so often supplies just the 
needed support. The name of the poet is so 
evasive that this very fact may prove that it 
is a true proper name, since most Greek proper 
names do not easily reveal their origin. 

The extreme skepticism which marked all 
phases of Homeric criticism during the last 
century is now changing to the belief that 
Homer is the name of a real person, that the 



Iliad is the poetic description of a real war 
fought in a real place, and that this war was a 
struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans.® 
The story of the Odyssey is so interwoven with 
the mythical and the impossible that its his- 
torical residuum must be almost negligible. 

Back of all early Greek literature there lay 
an indistinct mass of tradition to which poets 
went for plots and suggestions, and which they 
interpreted with the greatest freedom. Paris 
in Homer seems to have had no other wife than 
Helen and his amours seem the escapade of im- 
petuous youth; yet there was another tradition 
that he had deserted an affectionate and noble 
wife, Oenone. There is not a hint-ol^is 
earlier marriage in Homer, since this would 
have utterly ruined that gentility and courtesy 
which dignified the portrait of Helen. She 
could not have seemed so attractive and so 
humble if there had been a wronged and a 
jealous wife in the background. Hesiod, the 
poet nearest in time to Homer, says that Helen 
bore to Menelaus a daughter, Hermione, and a 
son, Nicostratus; while Homer distinctly 
stresses the fact that Helen bore but one 
child, Hermione. 



Even the parentage of so important a god- 
dess as Aphrodite was a matter of contradic- 
tory traditions; in Homer she was the daugh- 
ter of Dione, while in Hesiod she was denied 
both father and mother and was represen- 
ted as springing from the sea- foam which 
gathered around the mutilated parts of Uranus 
as these parts floated on the surface of the 

When a Greek artist chose for his theme 
some scene from Homer he rarely made an 
attempt to illustrate the text of the poet, but 
he changed the setting almost at will, e.g. 
Agamemnon in the story of the Iliad sent two 
heralds to bring Briseis from the presence of 
Achilles, a scene which is pictured on a familiar 
vase, but the artist of the vase did not choose 
to represent Briseis as moving along with two 
heralds, hence he substituted Agamemnon for 
one of them, thus absolutely violating the plot 
of the poem.^ This was of little moment to 
him, as he was chiefly interested in the beauty 
and harmony of his picture. 

Such a thing as orthodoxy in Greek tradition 
was practically unknown and each poet or 
artist varied the myths which he handled 
almost at will. This tradition was the store- 



house to which epic, lyric, and dramatic poets 
alike went for their heroes and their back- 

Homer, Pindar, and Sophocles went to this 
store-house for hints with which to stage or 
to embellish their poetry, but not for the poetry 
itself. Pindar took these hints and composed 
lyric poetry, Sophocles took them and wrote 
dramatic poetry, and Homer in an earlier age 
took these same hints and turned them into 
the Iliad and the Odyssey. It was due to the 
accident of time and changing customs that 
Homer created epic rather than lyric or 
dramatic poetry out of this traditional ma- 
terial. The " Homeric Question " owes its 
being to the fact that the epic has been 
assumed to be a form of literature absolutely 
unlike anything we know from historical 
Greece; while the truth is, Homer differs from 
the other Greeks only in time and in genius. 

The varying treatment of the same subject 
by the different dramatists shows how little 
poets strove to reproduce an existing and 
familiar tradition. Milton also took a tradi- 
tional theme in Paradise Lost, yet he hardly 
owes two-hundred verses to that tradition, and 
he based one entire book on the brief passage 



in the Bible which begins with the words " and 
there was war in heaven." 

Where the imagination of the poet had such 
free play it is clearly impossible to reconstruct 
from the poems themselves the traditions from 
which he drew. 

Homer plunges at once into the midst of his 
story, as if he assumed that the plot and the 
actors were known to his hearers, but he then 
so fills in the details and adorns the matter 
that we are as fully informed by him as if 
he had assumed our entire ignorance of the 

The poet rarely tells in details matters con- 
cerning which we are warranted in assuming 
an existing tradition. He tells us that the 
Greeks were held at Troy by the anger of 
Athena, but he does not explain the origin of 
that anger. He tells us that Ajax, the son of 
Oileus, was most hateful to Athena, but the 
reason is not given. He hints at, (without de- 
scribing), the death of Antilochus and of the 
greater Ajax. 

These known silences regarding traditional 
matters, and the simple fact that the poet never 
describes, but always assumes as known, 
implements, customs, and landscapes with 



which his hearers were famihar, make it highly 
probable that he is not repeating an old and 
familiar tale but that he is himself creating 
new traditions. 

The details and the manner of the telling 
make it more than possible that the wrath of 
Achilles and the return of Odysseus never had 
received extended poetic expression until 
Homer made them the theme of his poems. 

Although the poetry of Homer is the oldest 
poetry of Europe, it is not primitive poetry, for 
the poet is not striving after an unreached 
mastery in meter, ideas, or language. There 
are no experiments, but absolute control of 
one of the most difficult of meters, of the most 
complex syntax, and of the largest vocabulary 
used by any poet of Greece. The distinction 
generally drawn between natural epic and 
literary or conscious epic, with Homer as the 
type of the natural and Milton of the literary 
epic, is utterly false. Homer is no less literary 
than Milton and no definition of the essence 
of epic poetry can be framed which does not 
include them both. 

Homer was a conscious artist who knew the 
worth of his own work, and who constantly 
referred to the immortality of glory which 



would be the portion of the actors in his own 
imperishable songs. It seems the arrogance 
of genius that he could trust his own enduring 
renown to poems which do not even contain 
his name. 

Somehow Homer was able to reach poetic 
effects which seem easy and natural but which 
have been reached by none besides. Virgil 
was a great and conscious artist who also 
wrote dactyls, but many of his dactyls seem 
slow and labored when compared with Homer's, 
and Breal has made the shrewd observation 
that it takes less effort to read fifty verses of 
the Iliad than twenty of the Aeneid.^^ 

Aristotle, the best possible judge of Greek 
poetry, said that the Iliad and the Odyssey 
surpass all other poems in diction as well as 
in thought. Primitive poets may have the 
thoughts, but noble diction belongs only to 
advanced art. 

Homer is so hidden by his own creations 
that we caimot get a glimpse of him, except 
as these creations reveal his greatness. We 
can only surmise his ideas as we find them 
revealed by the deeds or the words of the 
actors in the poems. The only consistent 
tradition concerning Homer was the tradition 



of his blindness, but the poems show such 
delicate and varied powers of observation that 
his blindness has generally been considered 
impossible. However there is another side to 
this matter and the words of Helen Keller 
show that the poetry of Homer can arouse the 
enthusiasm of the blind: "It was the Iliad 
that made Greece my paradise. I cannot 
measure the enjoyment of this splendid epic. 
When I read the finest passages I am con- 
scious of a soul-sense that lifts me above the 
narrow, cramping circumstances of my life. 
My physical limitations are forgotten — my 
world lies upward, the length and the breadth 
and the sweep of the heavens are mine! "" 
A poet who could so appeal to the emotions 
of the blind may himself have been blind, 
since the possibilities of creation and of en- 
joyment are subject to the same limitations, 
or as it has been better said by Goethe, 

Dm gleichst dem Geisf den du begreifst, 
(You are like the spirit which you comprehend.) 

It is hard to draw any conclusions concern- 
ing the purposes of the poet from his own 
works, but we are sure that the oft-repeated 
assertion that " in Homer we have the com- 



plete picture of a civilization " is entirely false, 
as is the other statement that " Homer wove 
so many histories together as contained the 
whole learning of his time." One needs but 
to think of the matters Homer does not men- 
tion in order to grasp how much he has 
neglected. Everything connected directly with 
the " wrath " is fully set forth, no knowledge 
is there presumed, but it is only by inference 
that we can connect its story with the events 
which preceded or followed, or can form an 
opinion regarding the poet's theology or his 

Did the poet know of the sacrifice of Iphi- 
genia at Aulis, of the festering foot of Phil- 
octetes, of the manner of the death of the 
Dioscuri, and of a hundred other important 
matters connected with the siege of Troy or 
with the actors of the Iliad? He probably 
did, but as they were not involved in the 
" wrath," he passed them in silence. 

Helen came on the scene prominently in the 
Iliad and was one of the mourners at the bier 
of Hector, where she uttered dark forebodings 
of an unhappy future. Paris was still her 
husband, but when she reappears in the 
Odyssey there is no narrative of her subse- 



quent fate at Troy, and there is not an inkling 
of what became of Paris, since even his name 
is unmentioned in the second poem. 

No actor human or divine is so much in 
evidence and so powerful in both poems as 
Athena, but the poet makes no reference to 
the manner of her birth, while Hesiod tells 
the story of her springing from the head of 
Zeus as if it were an old and familiar tale; 
neither does Homer name the mother of Helen, 
except indirectly, since the only reference 
to Leda is as the mother of Castor and 

When we are left in darkness concerning 
such prominent characters as Athena, Paris, 
and Helen we can realize how scanty is the 
light thrown on minor events and actors. 

Homer had no ulterior motive in his poetry 
and he presented no system of learning, of 
morals, of theology, of government, or any 
outline of history. The Iliad has an historical 
background and an actual local setting, but 
these are only incidental, a stage on which the 
great tragedy of love, sorrow, passion, and 
death is acted. The appreciation of Homer does 
not depend on a knowledge of either history 
or geography, for the qualities which make the 


Iliad great are not of the Trojan war, but of 
all time. 

There are no nature forces, no nature myths 
hidden beneath the characters of Helen, Odys- 
seus, Hector, and Achilles, but they meant to 
Homer and to his hearers exactly what they 
mean to unsophisticated men today. The 
Greek character shows an astounding perma- 
nency and we know that when in the days of 
Sophocles the Athenians watched on the stage 
the miseries of the house of Atreus they were 
looking at real human sorrows, no nature 
forces in disguise. We are justified in suppos- 
ing a like feeling in Homer and also in his 

Homer has long been praised as a moral 
teacher, but it is hard to find any such purpose 
in his poetry. The fury felt by Athena and 
Hera for the Trojans was not from a sense 
of wrong but because of their own wounded 
pride, and that fury is never assigned to the 
adultery of Paris; Zeus could not fathom it 
and repeatedly but in vain urged them to 
remember the sacrifice and piety of the Trojan 
leaders. The poet never mentioned the death 
of Paris; a sure proof that he had no inten- 
tion of showing that the wrath of the gods 



followed to the end the betrayer of his host. 
There seems no moral reason for the anger of 
Poseidon which so ruthlessly followed Odys- 
seus because he escaped from the cave of 
Polyphemus in the only manner escape was 

It is hard to picture an all-powerful and 
all-good God as reigning in a world in which 
there is evil, a difficulty which was met by 
Hebrew and Christian theology by assigning 
all the evil to the Devil. Homer with no 
conception of a Devil that is only evil, held 
the gods responsible for both the good and the 
bad. Homer's gods would have presented a 
far holier aspect, if there had been in the poet's 
mind a Devil who was solely responsible for 
the immoral and ignoble acts of men. 

The Homeric gods seem due to the sense 
for moderation and for beauty which inhered 
in the Greek people rather than to any theo- 
logical reforms of the poet himself. He was 
so indifferent to giving a digest of theology 
that in the Odyssey the divine action is prac- 
tically limited to Athena, although Zeus is 
all-powerful in the background, while Posei- 
don's anger thwarts the efforts of the hero for 
a season. The only appearance of Ares, 



Apollo, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus in the 
Odyssey is in the song of Demodocus; a song 
that is hardly didactic or theological in its 

The Iliad and the Odyssey are simply 
imaginative f ecstatic, poetic creations, unham^ 
pered by any ulterior moral, historical, theO' 
logical, or philosophical purposes. 



THE poetry of Homer is so melodi- 
ous in meter, vocabulary, and in- 
flection that it is impossible to give 
even a faintly adequate idea of its beauty by 
means of paraphrase or translation. A para- 
phrase into English prose of Milton's Lycidas 
or of an ode of Keats would destroy all the 
charm, but would have the advantage of the 
same language and essentially the same vocabu- 
lary, while the paraphrase of Homer, even 
into Greek, shows the amazing elevation of 
Homeric meter and Homeric language. 

The prose rendering of the Iliad published 
as an addition to the scholia has but a single 
word unchanged in the paraphrase of the first 
verse of the Iliad, and that one word, the 
word for goddess, is not the usual prose form 
but is highly poetic. In English we can 
scarcely produce more than this prose para- 
phrase, while the music and the magic inhere 
only in the original words of the poet. 

Many phrases which cannot be brought into 
English without becoming the flattest prose or 




the worst metrical drivel are expressed in the 
original by words of melody and of majesty, 
e.g. Homer refers to kine as " eilipodas helikas 
bous," a peculiarly charming group of sounds, 
yet the English thereof ^^ cattle with crumpled 
horns and shambling gait " is common prose 
which cannot be turned into melodious Enghsh 
by any genius of poetry. 

It is hard now to grasp the reasons for the 
great repute gained by Chapman's Homer, as 
it is so unlike and so much more difficult than 
the original, and I have often been obliged to 
turn to the Greek in order to find the meaning 
Chapman intended to convey. A reading of 
this famous translation gives hardly an inkling 
of the style or excellencies of Homer. In book 
VI of the Iliad, verse 401, Hector's infant son 
is said to be " like a beautiful star," just three 
simple Homeric words in the Greek, but in 
Chapman we have: 

Like a heavenly sign, 
Compact of many golden stars, the princely child 
did shine. 

When Andromache told Hector of the death of 
her father, she said, "About his tomb the 
mountain nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing 



Zeus, caused elms to grow." These few and 
plain words appear in Chapman thus: 

The Oreades, that are the high descent 
0/ Aegis-bearing Jupiter, another of their own 
"Did add to it, and set it round with elms; by which 

is shown 
In theirs, the barrenness of death; yet might it 

serve beside 
To shelter the sad monument from all the ruffinous 

Of storms and tempests, used to hurt things of that 

noble kind. 

Again in that same speech Andromache said, 
" Mother ruled as queen under woody Placus 
until Artemis delighting in arrows slew her in 
the halls of my father.*' This appears in 

hnd she in sylvan Hypoplace, Cilicia ruled again, 
But soon was overruled by death; Diana's chaste 

Gave her a lance, and took her life. 

The pun on the words "ruled" and "over- 
ruled " has no warrant in the original, while 
"Diana's chaste disdain gave her a lance," 
seems most remote from the dignity and sim- 
plicity of Homer. 



When Chapman had finished his task of 
translating Homer he exclaimed, " The work 
that I was born to do is done ! " 

This translation gave Chapman a place 
among the great poets of his great age, Swin- 
burne addressed Chapman as '' High priest of 
Homer! ", and in the face of Keats' testimony 
we cannot doubt the thrill this translation 
brought to a true judge of poetry; yet one who 
has both Homer and Chapman before him 
must regret that Keats could not have written 
another sonnet upon reading Homer in Homer's 
own language. 

Chapman's translation was long an English 
classic, an honor that was also won by Pope. 
While Chapman's Homer has steadily declined 
in popular favor, Pope's is still widely read. 

There is a swing and a movement in many 
parts of Pope which might rival Homer him- 
self. The first eight verses of Pope's Iliad 
are as follows: 

Achilles* wrath, to Greece the direful spring 
0/ woes unnumbered, heavenly goddess, sing! 
That wrath which hurVd to Pluto^s gloomy reign 
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain; 
Whose limbs unburied on the naked shore, 
Devouring dogs and hungry vtdtures tore; 



Since great Achilles and Atrides strove, 
Stick mas the sovereign doom, and suck the will of 

This is great poetry, but it is not Homeric, 
even if it does vaguely reproduce the opening 
lines. Hades becomes '^ Pluto's gloomy reign," 
while the simple words, " He gave them as a 
spoil for dogs and for all birds of prey," be- 

Wkose limbs unburied on the naked shore, 
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore. 

" Unburied on the naked shore," " devouring," 
and " hungry " are entirely due to Pope. 
These few verses are a good illustration of the 
liberties Pope took with the original, so that 
one must smile to see Sir John Lubbock gravely 
quoting Pope to illustrate Homeric customs of 
marriage, when the thing quoted is solely due 
to Pope and not to be found in Homer.^^ 

The greatness of these opening verses has 
given this translation a reputation it scarcely 
deserves, for it is in just such passages as these 
that Pope is at his best. He has missed " the 
grand style of Homer " utterly and in scenes 
of simple narrative he is too ornate, often bom- 



bastic and absurd. The plain words of Homer, 
'^ Lambs have horns at their birth " become in 

And two fair crescents of translucent horn 
The brows of all their young increase adorn, 

and the phrase " horns wrapped with gold " 

Whose budding honours ductile gold adorns. 

Not only are such commonplace facts for- 
eign to the genius of Pope, but he is even 
worse in such noble scenes as the parting of 
Hector and Andromache, as he then felt it 
necessary to improve on Homer. This scene 
begins with the verse: " But he found not his 
faultless wife within," which Pope thus im- 
proves : 

But he found not whom his soul desired. 
Whose virtue charmed him as her beauty fired. 

All through this noble scene Pope stresses the 
physical attractions of Andromache, so that 
Homer's beautiful words, " Thus speaking he 
placed his son in the arms of his mother," 
become the tawdry: 

He spoke^ and fondly gazing on her charms 
Restored the pleasing burden to her arms. 

[ 37 ] 


Homer never hints at the physical beauty but 
glorifies only the spirit of Andromache, and 
this is vulgarized by Pope. 

Pope's Homer is one of the most illustrious 
books of English authorship. Young in his 
Night Thoughts paid its author this great 

T>ark, though not blind, like thee, Maeonidest 
Or MUton, thee I Ah could I reach your strain, 
Or his who made Maeonides our own, 
Mflw too he sung, 

Coleridge referred to "That astounding 
product of matchless talent and ingenuity, 
Voce's Iliadr"-^ 

This great and lasting reputation is de- 
served, but Pope never caught the style or the 
spirit of Homer. 

The translation by Cowper is far superior 
to either Chapman's or Pope's as an interpre- 
tation of the poet, but it lacks a certain fire and 
swing essential to winning great poetic re- 
nown. Along with Cowper's should be placed 
the careful and successful translation by 

A poetic translation of the Iliad has been 
made by the Earl of Derby, which is accu- 



rate, dignified, and poetic. This seems to me 
to reproduce Homer more nearly than any 
other English verse translation, but even these 
verses in the heroic measure of Milton bear 
little resemblance to the majestic and flowing 
hexameters of the original. 

Most attempts to render Homer in English 
dactyls have ended in failure, for the simple 
reason that our language has few dactylic 
words or forms and it has too many mono- 
syllables, while dactyls need a language 
abounding in sonorous and polysyllabic words. 
Longfellow achieved a large measure of suc- 
cess in his Evangeline, but such verses as: 

luoud laugh their hearts with joy and weep with 

pain us they hear him, 
White as the snow were his locks and his cheeks 

were as brown as the oak leaves, 

are dactylic by sufferance only and have little 
to connect them with the majestic dactyls of 

A worthy translation in dactylic hexameters 
by H. B. Cotterill has been highly praised to 
me by Doctor Walter Leaf. 

The most satisfactory translations are those 
in prose, of which there are several of high 



merit. The best known are the Iliad by Lang, 
Leaf, and Myers, the Odyssey by Butcher and 
Lang, and the Odyssey by Palmer. A recent 
translation of the Odyssey by A. T. Murray, 
published in the Loeb Classical Library, is 
especially good. 

The prose of these latest translators comes 
nearer to the original than any poetic version, 
yet no more reproduces Homer than a char- 
coal sketch can reveal the beauties of a Titian, 
but it does give a fairly accurate impression of 
what the poet said. 



THE first word of the Iliad is " Wrath " 
which reveals at once the kernel of 
the poem, since the Iliad does not de- 
pend on the fate of Achilles, but solely on his 
wrath. There are no unanswered questions 
concerning this wrath, its origin, its course, or 
its results; but the death of Achilles, the re- 
turn of Helen, the end of the war seem hardly 
nearer than when the poem began. The his- 
torical element in the Iliad is thus but slight, 
even if it does concern an actual war. 

The speeches of the quarrel scene and of the 
embassy, the pleadings of Thetis with Zeus, 
the parting of Hector from Andromache, the 
making of the shield, the games, the father 
begging for the delivery of the corpse of his 
son are all poetic creations, unhampered by 
time or place. 

Recent excavations made at Troy and geo- 
graphical surveys in the Troad are of great 
value and prove that the poet chose a real city 
and an actual landscape for his setting, also 



that he was describing a civilization that had 
once existed, but, even granting all this, Homer 
has none the less given to " airy nothing a 
local habitation and a name." 

A real Mt. Ida there must have been, but 
the scene thereon between Zeus and Hera is 
still mythical; genuine is the wall of Troy, but 
Helen's appearance at its summit and Hector's 
parting from Andromache are merely the crea- 
tion of the poet's fancy. 

|Gito the story of Achilles' anger the poet 
has woven most of the great human emotions 
and has endowed all his actors with an indi- 
viduality that has never been surpassed. It is 
easier to enter into familiar companionship 
with the great Homeric creations^ than with 
Miltiades, Themistocles, Thucydides, or with 
most of the historical characters of Greece. We 
know Nestor better than we know even so 
famous a man as Pericles, in spite of Thucy- 
dides, Plutarch, and the comic poets. 

fphe Iliad introduced to literature such out- 
standing figures as Agamemnon, Achilles, 
Hector, Paris, Priam, Diomede, Nestor, Odys- 
seus, Helen, Hecuba, and Andromache. Each 
appears as a distinct personality and has ever 
since preserved the Homeric features'.) 



A discussion of the plot and the great scenes 
of the Iliad would far transgress the limits set 
for this book, yet the poet's ability to set forth 
striking ideas in a few words may be illus- 
trated by a series of brief quotations and run- 
ning comments. 

Nestor, a speaker whose talking pleased 
others and himself, is described as '' a speaker 
from whose lips speech sweeter than honey 
flows." The conservative Odysseus put into a 
single sentence the slogan of autocracy: ^' A 
government by the many is not a good thing. 
Let there be one ruler, one king to whom Zeus 
has given dominion," and Helen's description 
of Agamemnon as '^ both a good king and a 
mighty warrior " has been the ideal of aspiring 

When Agamemnon saw that Menelaus had 
been shot, in violation of the truce, he ex- 
claimed: "Not in vain are the sacred oaths, 
the blood of lambs, and solemn compacts, for 
if Zeus does not show his power at first, he 
will in the end punish mightily the guilty with 
utter destruction." 

Strife is described as " small at first but at 
last it strides with its feet on earth and head 
in heaven," an image which Virgil repeats but 



applies to Rumor (Fama). Nestor grieved 
that although he had years and experience he 
was without youth and vigor, then comforts 
himself by saying: " The gods have never yet 
given all things at the same time to any man." 
This has been repeated by Virgil in his famous 

Non omnia possumus omnes. 

Axylus is described as " a man who lived in 
a house by the side of the road and gave hos- 
pitality to all." This evidence of a sense for 
social service has been the subject of many an 
address or essay. 

The words of Glaucus, "As is the race of 
leaves, so is the generation of men, the wind 
casts some leaves to the ground, others the 
flourishing forest brings forth when spring has 
come, so is the generation of men, one is born 
and another passes away." This has the honor 
of being the first quotation made by any 
ancient writer where the nativity of the poet 
of the Iliad was given. Simonides quotes it as 
by the man of Chios. Shelley was much im- 
pressed by these lines and incorporated them 
in one of his youthful poems. 

This same Glaucus, in his enthusiasm at 



finding an ancestral friend in Diomede, ex- 
changed his own armor of gold for Diomede's 
armor of bronze, the proverbial example of 
those who in a moment of excitement throw 
away on trifles their most precious possessions; 
and this is the Greek equivalent of " selling 
one's birthright for a mess of pottage." 

Zeus boasted that he was so strong that he 
could draw up earth and sea, then suspend 
them in air, bound with a golden chain to a 
spur of Olympus. This ^^ golden chain " or 
aurea catena was a prominent element in later 
philosophical theories of the universe. 

Odysseus tried to arouse Achilles by saying: 
" There is no means for finding a cure when 
once the evil is done," but Achilles replied: 
"Cattle and sheep may be won back, tripods 
and horses be seized, but you cannot recover 
the human life that has once departed from 
the body." 

Hector's reply to Polydamas, who had tried 
to check him in his victorious career because 
the omens of birds were unfavorable, is abso- 
lutely modern and is often regarded as the 
finest expression of patriotism ever spoken. 
" You bid me put my trust in broad-winged 
birds, but I refuse to follow them, I care not 



whether they move to left or right. One omen 
alone is best, to fight for native land." Pro- 
fessor Gildersleeve pronounced this last verse 
^' the world's greatest verse of poetry." It is 
translated by Pope with a superb couplet: 

Without a sign his sword the brave man draws, 
And asks no omen but his country^ s cause. 

This however misses the simple dignity of the 
original, since Homer used but six words. It 
seems to me that Chapman missed the tone 
absolutely in his: "One augury is given to 
order all men best of all: Fight for thy coun- 
trie's right." The Earl of Derby's rendering 
is nearly perfect: 

The best of omens is our country's cause. 

On another occasion Hector inspired his 
men with the words: "It is glorious to die 
fighting for one's native land," and this has 
been repeated by Horace in the verse: 

Dtdce et decorum est pro patria mori, 

a motto which has been a favorite inscription 
on military monuments. 

During the struggle for the body of Patro- 



clus deep night spread over the field, when 
Ajax in anguish prayed that Zeus might slay 
him, if he only gave him light. This has been 
adapted by Longfellow: 

The prayer of Ajax was for light; 
Through all that dark and desperate fight, 
The blackness of that noonday night. 
He asked but for the return of sight. 
To see his foeman's face}* 

When the warriors were preparing for battle 
down in the plain, the old men too feeble to 
fight sat on the walls " chirping like grass- 
hoppers," as they discussed the merits of the 
different chieftains, or sat in silence while 
Helen pointed out and named for them Aga- 
memnon, Odysseus, Ajax, and Idomeneus. 
Longfellow with wonderful aptness drew on 
this scene for his poem, Morituri Salutamus, 
delivered on the occasion of the fiftieth anni- 
versary of his graduation from college: 

h.s ancient Priam at the Scaean gate 

Sat on the walls of Troy in regal state 

With the old men, too old or weak to fight ^ 

Chirping like grasshoppers in their delight 

To see the embattled hosts, with spear and shield, 

0/ Trojans and Achaians in the field; 



So from the snowy summits of our years 

We see you in the plain, as each appears, 

hnd question of you; asking y ' Who is he 

That towers above the others? Which may be 

Atreides, Menelaus, Odysseus, 

Ajax the great, or bold Idomeneus? ' 

When the corpse of Patroclus came back 
to his tent Briseis uttered a dirge of bitter 
sorrow, 'grieving in his death, and all the 
women joined therein: "apparently weeping 
for Patroclus, but in truth each wept for her 
own sorrows." 

When a laugh was forced from the angry 
Hera it is said that " She laughed with her lips 
but there was no joy in her face." 

Andromache described the cup of charity 
which is doled out to orphans, as: "a drink 
which moistens the lips but does not reach to 
the palate." 

When Hector challenged the best of the 
Greeks to meet him in single combat: "They 
all remained silent, ashamed to refuse but 
afraid to accept." 

The aim of education was to make one " a 
speaker of words and a doer of deeds." 

When Achilles mourned for Patroclus he 
said: "I shall never forget him, so long as I 



share the lot of the living, and if they forget 
the dead in Hades, even there will I remember 
my beloved companion.'^ 

Bellerophon carried to Lycia a secret order 
for his own death, a thing which suggested to 
Young in his Night Thoughts: 

He whose blind thought futitrity denies, 
Unconscious bears, Bellerophon! like thee 
His own indictment: he condemns himself, 

Zeus uttered the amazingly frank statement: 
" There is nothing more wretched than man, 
nothing of all the things which breathe and 
move on the face of the earth." This senti- 
ment is very like the words of Achilles: "The 
gods have decreed that wretched mortals 
should live in sorrow, while they themselves 
are free from cares." 

The following verses are much quoted and 

Potent is the combined strength even of frail men. 
Sleep which is the brother of death. 
The purposes of great men are subject to change. 
Whoever obeys the gods, him they especially hear. 
When two go together, one thinks before the other. 
Good is the advice of a companion. 



War is impartial and slays the slayer. 

Zeus does not bring to pass all the purposes of men. 

Even a wood-chopper accomplishes more by skill 

than by strength. 
A fool can understand, when the thing is done. 
Whatever word you utter, just such a word you will 

be obliged to hear. 

firhe actors of the Iliad, excepting gods and 
priests, are all warriors or their dependents 
and the poem is drawn with a military setting, 
but the real greatness of that poem is in the 
portrayal of powerful human emotions rather 
than in military exploits!) 

No blood is shed in the first three books of 
the Iliad and there is no fighting in the last 
two. 0trange as it may seem only a minor 
part of the poem is given to actual warfare, 
while most of the great scenes are without 

Even those books which are most martial, 
such as the fifth, have long stretches in which 
no blood is shed. 

fThe world has always been interested in 
wars and in warriors, so that many of the 
most famous names of history belong to mili- 
tary heroes. Homer wisely chose this absorb- 



ing theme as the background of his poem, but 
it is little more than the background, the 
setting. So great was his genius that he drew 
scenes of battle with such power and painted 
war with such faithfulness that a Napoleon 
was convinced that the Iliad was the work of 
an expert military tactician,^^ fbut the poet's 
heart was elsewhere and it was far different 
qualities which he honored! 

Patroclus was much the greatest Greek 
warrior to be slain in the action of the Iliad, 
When his body was in danger of falling into 
the hands of the foe, Menelaus urged the 
Greeks to the rescue with these words: "Let 
each one now remember the gentleness of poor 
Patroclus, for he knew how to be gentle to all." 
ffhe fact that the companion of this great 
warrior should recall the gentleness and not 
the prowess of the fallen leader shows the 
sentiments of the poeR Homer was able so 
to stress the kindlier elements in the character 
of Hector as to win for him the appearance of 
greatness in spite of his repeated military 

Of all the Homeric similes but five are 
taken from warfare, and of the 66$ tropes no 
more than fifteen are miHtary.^* 


Homer and his inipluence 

There were other sources of fame than war, 
since the assembly was called " man-enno- 
bling," and the council is referred to as '' the 
place where men become very conspicuous." 
In the Odyssey a good speaker is said to be 
" preeminent among assembled men, and when 
he moves throughout the city the people gaze 
at him, as if he were a god." How different 
all this from the feelings of a real war-poet, 
Tyrtaeus, who said: "A man who possesses 
every excellence is nothing, if he be not 
mighty in war! " 

/The Homeric warriors were all men of might, 
but still they were men. Achilles could be 
wounded and he had no abnormal traits or 
powers, such as mark the heroes of most sagas!) 
In the Indian epics the heroes uproot moun- 
tains and slay their foes by the thousands. 
The bow of Rama must be carried by five 
thousand men. In the Irish tales the hero 
has seven pupils in each eye, and in his anger 
flames stream from his mouth while a jet of 
blood higher than the mast of a ship shoots 
up from the top of his head. In these Irish 
epics men are slain by thousands through the 
might of a single arm.^^ The exploits of 
Achilles, though great, are within the limits 



of the possible and they seem almost tame in 
comparison with the thrilling adventures of 
some of the decorated heroes of The World 




[HE CHARACTERS of the Iliad are 
drawn to an heroic scale and with 
an heroic poiseT) Thersites excepted, 
put in the Odyssey even the hero himself dur- 
ing most of the poem is in the guise of a 
suppliant or of a beggar, while the other actors 
are slaves, revelers, or men of rank, and kings 
who do not show their crowns and their 

Odysseus in the Iliad was one of the eight 
or ten outstanding leaders, but he was clearly 
not in training for the great part he was to 
take in the companion poem. When Hector 
challenged the best of the Greeks to meet him 
in single combat they decided to select his 
antagonist by lot, and as the lot was cast they 
all prayed that "Ajax, Agamemnon, or Dio- 
mede might be chosen," but no one wanted 
Odysseus to have this dangerous honor. In 
the contest for the prize in archery he did not 
compete, yet in the Odyssey he boasted that 
he easily excelled all those at Troy who 
handled the bow. 



(The hero of the Odyssey is a re-creation of 
the Odysseus of the Iliady the same in gifts, 
but greatly exalted.] Then, too, the wife, Pe- 
nelope, is never named in the earlier epic. The 
poet did not introduce the hero in person until 
in the fifth book of the Odyssey, since the 
impression must be created that he is of such 
importance that his fate is eagerly discussed 
not only in Ithaca, Pylos, and Sparta, but 
among the assembled gods of Olympus as 

The action of the Iliad, as far as the human 
actors are concerned, is confined to the limited 
area of the Troad, while the hero of the 
Odyssey moves from Troy to the . land of 
the Cicones, then throughout the length of the 
Aegean, thence out into fairyland and back to 
IthacaTj Telemachus journeyed to Pylos and 
to Sparta, Nestor told of his return voyage 
from Troy, while Menelaus recounted his ad- 
ventures in Egypt and his visit to many lands, 
even to Phoenicia and Libya. 

ffhe greatest single difference between 
Iliad and the Odyssey is the difference ot set- / 
ting, for the action of the Iliad is confined to ^ 
a single small district, the action of the 
Odyssey moves without restraint over limitless 



regions, going even into fairyland and to 

ffhe plot of the Iliad is loosely joined, so 
loosely that there are many books which con- 
tribute little or nothing towards the advance- 
ment of the story. The sixth, ninth, and 
twenty-third books are three of the greatest of 

{ the poem, yet had they been lost from the 
manuscripts and never been quoted, one could 
hardly have suspected their existence^- This 
does not mean that they were additions by 
later poets, since if most of the soliloquies of 
Hamlet had been lost it would have been hard 
to detect the gaps. The important eleventh 
book is only vaguely connected with the books 
immediately preceding. 
iln the Odyssey the structure is just the 

J reverse, for in it there is such a mutual inter- 
change of cause and effect that each book can 
be understood only in the light of earlier booksl 
Athena in the first book came from Olympus 
to arouse Telemachus to go in search of his 
father; in the second an assembly is called 
and this search is announced as well as pre- 
pared. In this the poet had a double purpose, 
he showed us the wife, the son, the suitors, the 
faithful Euryclia, and the conditions in Ithaca, 



and we are made to realize the great impor- 
tance of the hero himself. 

In the next two books the young man made 
the trip to Pylos and to Sparta as ordered and 
planned, and we learn the heroic stature of 
Odysseus from his own companions and asso- 
ciates at Troy. 

Just such an introduction as is given in these 
books is needed to make the hearer feel that 
the Odysseus he had known in the Iliad is 
fitted for the great part he was destined to 
assume. Had the Odyssey opened at book five 
the poet could not have created the impression 
that the Odysseus he had left at the games of 
the Iliad had become sufficiently important to 
warrant his holding the center of the stage, and 
holding it throughout the entire poem. This 
journey of Telemachus had another purpose 
and that was the furnishing of an opportunity 
for the immature youth to develop under new 
influences into the hero he proved to be in the 
great struggle with the suitors. 

The long story of Odysseus' wanderings 
could have found no ready and eager audience 
without the songs of Demodocus and the ex- 
ploits at the games. Even the mysterious 
movements through fairyland have a necessary 



sequence, since the crews who manned the 
twelve ships with which he sailed from Troy 
were far too numerous to be entertained by 
Circe, hence the destruction of the eleven ships 
at the hands of the Laestrygones must precede 
the story of the sojourn in the Aeaean isle. 
Even one shipload was too many men for the 
seven years with Calypso, hence the slaugh- 
ter of the cattle of the sun and the shipwreck, 
but the adventures with Charybdis and Scylla 
demanded a ship and its crew, hence they came 
earlier than the storm which brought the loss 
of all his companions. 

^^it is doubtful if the skill with which the 
poet of the Odyssey weaves the individual 
strands of poetry into a great epic plot has 
ever been equalled. This is the second great 
difference between the two poems, since the 
Iliad is a succession of loosely joined scenes, a 
series of pearls strung on the thread of the 
anger of Achilles, and so strung that many of 
them might have been removed without de- 
tection, while the Odyssey is a complicated 
chain of poetry, a cable in which each strand 
strengthens and is strengthened by all the rest?; 
Professor Sheppard wisely suggests that the 
Iliad is to be compared to a pattern or a com- 



plicated drawing, where the seemingly isolated 
books really serve as decorative panels, and 
that each individual scene somehow adds to 
the beauty and the completeness of the whole /^^ 

Not a single hero of the Iliad who appears 
in the first book is on the scene at the close, 
even the setting is changed from the shore and 
the camp of the Greeks to the city and the 
assembly of the Trojans; while the Odyssey 
which has shifted so much and has moved to 
so many and such remote regions closes in 
Ithaca, on the estate of Odysseus, and among 
the actors with which the poem began; even 
Athena who set in motion the forces which 
started the poem and brought the hero to his 
home is the last to act and to speak, 
-^n setting and in structure these two poems 
are quite different, however similar they may 
be in style, in meter, and in language. The 
Odyssey never repeats or imitates the Iliad but 
always assumes a knowledge of the events of 
that earlier poem as a background.^ 

The ancients regarded the Odyssey ^,s> a later 
poem than the Iliad, but the evidence is sur- 
prisingly shght. The words of Proteus to 
Menelaus, "and you were present at the 
battle/' were intended as a reason for not re- 



peating things told in the Iliad and warrant the 
inference that the narratives of that poem were 
already known. 

The Odyssey constantly assumes a knowl- 
edge of the story of the Iliad y while the Iliad 
never makes any assumption of a knowledge 
of the Odyssey. 

The Iliad apparently took over but little 
foreign material; perhaps the Catalogue of the 
Ships, and the story of Meleager, as told by 
Phoenix, were such foreign material. The 
Odyssey unites the adventures of the hero with 
a mass of stories and myths, some of which 
may be traced to other lands and to remote 
antiquity. Sir Arthur Evans thinks he has 
found in the ruins of early Crete representa- 
tions of the myth of Scylla,^^ while tales re- 
sembling the story of the Cyclops have been 
found in many lands. However, the wander- 
ings of Odysseus have been so cleverly united 
with the blinding of Polyphemus that we can 
scarcely imagine an Odyssey without that 

The Lotus-Eaters, Aeolus, Circe, Calypso, 

Scylla, and Charybdis may all be older than 

Homer, but they are so fitted into the story, so 

interwoven with the exploits of Odysseus that 



they have the dignity and the freshness of new 

Fairyland seems real in Homer, and the 
descriptions of the abode of Calypso and of the 
house and the gardens of the Phaeacians are 
the most definite and elaborate in either poem. 
The poet does not assume that they are known 
to the hearers, hence the very fullness of the 
description may prove that they are due en- 
tirely to his fancy. 

Verses from the Odyssey that have passed 
into general literature are the following: 

All men feel their need of gods. (A favorite 
verse of Melanchthon.) 

Fear not in your heart, for a bold man is better 
in every undertaking. 

Nothing is more pleasing than one's native land. 

Eager to pile Ossa on Olympus, and Pelion on 

On the one side Scylla, on the other Charybdis. 
All forms of death are bitter to man, but the worst 
death of all is to die from hunger. 

One man finds delight in one thing, another in 
something else. 

It is an equal evil to press a guest to leave when 
he desires to remain, or to force him to stay 



when he wants to depart. One should enter- 
tain the guest while he is present, then let 
him go when he wishes to depart. 

Pope's translation of one of these verses: 
Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest 

is deservedly famous, but is supposed to be 
due to his collaborator, Broome. 

A man finds joy in evils, when they are past. 

The very presence of the weapon tempts to violence. 

God brings like unto like. 

In adversity men quickly grow old. 

To confer a favor is better far than to do a wrong. 

It is a sin against the gods to boast over a fallen 

Hard it is to refuse a gift. 
To spend one's time in talking trifles is evil. 
Things in moderation are better. 
A man has no greater glory so long as he lives than 

the athletic prizes he wins with his hands and 

his feet. 

This sentence is peculiarly Hellenic and seems 
also much like the faith of the college student. 
Homer could not have better expressed the 
present enthusiasm for athletics. 


Evil deeds do not prosper. 

Worthless are the pledges of worthless men. 

When Odysseus and his men were in the 
presence of great danger he encouraged them 
by reminding them of the trials through which 
they had successfully passed, then added: 

Some time, no doubt, you will fondly recall this 
danger too. 

Virgil brilliantly took over this idea in these 
words : Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit. 

Too much sleep is a burden. 

Schliemann had this last sentence put as a 
motto over the door of his bed-chamber. 

Odysseus came to the hut of the swineherd 
in the guise of an infirm beggar and told his 
host that once he had been a man of might, 
but as he realized that his present condition 
was not in harmony with that boasted great- 
ness, he added: 

By looking at the stubble you can certainly com- 
prehend (that is, how great the harvest must 
have been). 



The gods have never yet shown themselves to all 

It is a terrible thing to shed royal blood. 

This was a favorite motto with partisans of 
Charles the First. 

Stern are the rebukes of princes. 
Evil shepherds destroy the flocks. 
A man loses half of his manhood when he becomes 

a slave. 
Shyness ill becomes a man in want. 
Men are easily generous with another's wealth. 
It is better to die than to live a failure. 
A drunkard finds misery for himself first of all. 
May health be thine and great joy, also may the 

gods grant thee prosperity. 

The Odyssey is the tale of an island-ruler 
who returned after long years to his distracted 
realm, slew the conspirators against his home 
and his power, and by re-establishing his 
authority brought peace to his kingdom. 

A modern poet would have made the re- 
union of the husband and wife the climax of 
the poem, but the love motif is secondary: ja 
Homer, and the goal is not reached until it is 
evident that the death of the suitors is to 



remain unavenged, until the strife has been 
settled and the hero firmly fixed on the throne 
he inherited from his fathers. The present 
close of the Odyssey is thus a necessity by 
the very conception of the poem. The Odyssey \ 
is not, as already said, a series of scenes but | 
a closely connected plot, fully thought out from / 
the beginning. 

Even the many fairy tales told at the Phaea- 
cians' banquet must have been in the first 
formulation of the plot, since the loss of all 
the companions is a necessary part of the story; 
yet these companions were lost in fairyland and 
it was in fairyland that Poseidon found the 
reason for his anger. 

When Odysseus left Troy he had twelve 
ships and hardly less than six-hundred follow- 
ers, but when he reached home his ships were 
wrecked and he was all alone. It is most un- 
likely that any explanation for this change was 
ever put in verse except in the present narra- 
tive of our Odyssey. 

(The Iliad has more fire, more passion than . i 
the Odyssey J hence is to be regarded as the 
greater poem, and it has been more often 
quoted, but the handling of the material, the 
technique, of the Odyssey is incomparably 




superior. The Odyssey is the work of Homer 
when the poetic fires have somewhat cooled, 
but when he had thoroughly mastered the 
minutest details of epic composition.; 

There are three compositional defects in the 
Iliad, as follows: first, the elimination of the 
hero from the story for long continuous 
stretches; Achilles is not even named in the 
third book; second, the action is overcrowded 
on two of the important days, since all the 
events from the beginning of the second book 
until near the close of the seventh are supposed 
to come between dawn and dusk of a single 
day; also the fighting which began at the 
opening of book eleven does not abate until 
near the middle of book eighteen; third, there 
is no necessary sequence or causation for many 
of the events of the poem, that is, some books 
are so loosely connected with the narrative that 
they scarcely advance the story. 

All these defects are completely mastered by 
the poet in the Odyssey, as the hero is never 
forgotten and is hardly less prominent in the 
books from which he is absent than in those in 
which he appears; the events are so well dis- 
tributed that no day is crowded with excess 
action; and, finally, the poem is an organic 


whole, each part contributing to the plot, each 
scene depending on what has preceded and 
influencing that which is to follow. 

These points of superiority in the Odyssey 
seem due to experience and they seem to prove 
that this poem is the work of the poet's artistic 
maturity, although that maturity marks a 
certain decline in poetic ecstasy; thus support- 
ing the ancient belief that the Iliad was the 
work of Homer's younger years, the Odyssey 
of his ripe and advancing age. 



HOMER shows his greatness alike in 
the immense reach of his genius and 
in the execution of the most minute 
details and in the ability sympathetically to 
portray the most varied characters. His Zeus 
is worthy to be the king of the gods, so that 
poets as well as artists have made him their 
ideal of that exalted divinity; yet his Zeus is 
no better done than the swineherd, the old 
nurse, or the innocent girl, Nausicaa. 

With a single act, speech, phrase, or de- 
scription the poet is able so to fix personal 
traits or attributes that his characters take on 
an individuality distinct from all the rest. 
Stentor is given but two lines, yet his name has 
become an adjective of almost universal use, 
even appearing as a scientific term of definite 

Thersites appears but once and makes but a 
single speech; yet he has ever since been the 
representative of his class, as clear and distinct 
as if he had been a leading actor. When 
Emerson wrote: "Some figure goes by which 


Thersites too can love and admire/' no one can 

doubt his meaning. Goethe refers to this one 

speech by Thersites as: 

das herrlichste Original einer sansctdottischen 


Helen, Andromache, Hecuba, and Penelope 
were all wives and mothers, but the poet has so 
pictured them that each represents something 
quite apart from the other three. Nausicaa, 
the young princess of the Phaeacians, appears 
in but two books, yet she is so charming and 
so human, so Hke none but herself that she has 
lived in literature as the perfect example of 
gracious maidenhood. Goethe planned a 
drama with her as a leading character, but 
abandoned the idea, since he did not wish to 
compete with the original. 

Homer could create a Zeus fit to rule over 
gods and men, he could set forth the passions 
of an Achilles and put in his mouth speeches 
of royal rage and dignity, then he could just 
as lovingly bring in the old slave Dolius and 
could put on his lips the tender est of all 
greeting; for when Dolius knew that Odysseus 
had indeed returned, he kissed his hand at the 
wrist (a wonderful httle touch!) and said: 



" May health be thine and great joy, may the 
gods also grant thee prosperity." The same 
genius could with equal fidelity linger lovingly 
by the side of the poor old dog, Argos, that 
cast out with fleas and filth died of a broken 
heart, broken for joy at sight of his kind and 
affectionate master who had left him twenty 
years before. The poet does not think it un- 
worthy of the hero of so many struggles to 
add: "At sight of him Odysseus turned aside 
his face and wiped away a tear." 

It is the self-consciousness of his own powers 
which makes a poet presume to compose 
speeches for Achilles, Odysseus, Zeus, and 
Athena; but the real test of this self-confidence 
is found when he undertakes to compose the 
song sung by the Sirens. Circe had warned 
Odysseus that he must hasten by the Sirens, 
since they charm all men who come near them; 
then she added that no one who had once heard 
their melodious strains could bring himself to 
leave them, while all about were the bones of 
men who had died as they tried to listen. 
There was only one means of safety and that 
was to fill the ears of his companions with wax 
while he himself was to be securely bound to 
the support of the mast. 



Odysseus, as ordered, stopped the ears of the 
crew with wax, had himself securely bound 
hand and foot and then started to sail past 
the Sirens, but when their song was heard he 
determined to delay and to listen, even if this 
meant destruction, but his companions, who 
could not hear, bound him in yet stronger 
fetters, carried him out of the reach of the 
voice of the Sirens, and thus saved the ship 
and the crew. 

It must have been an entrancing song which 
could induce a cool and crafty Odysseus, in 
spite of definite warning, to throw away his 
hopes of Ithaca and of life, just to listen for a 
moment to its strains. Homer does not shrink, 
he gives the song. 

This song is of unusually rich melody even 
for Homer, a melody which inheres in the 
original Greek and is lost in the translation, so 
that it is possible to show but dimly its beau- 
ties: " Come hither, illustrious Odysseus, great 
glory of the Achaeans, and moor your ship, 
for no one has ever passed us by until he has 
heard the mellifluous song from our lips. When 
he has once heard he goes on with great joy 
and with increased knowledge, since we know 
all things such as the Argives and the Trojans 



brought about through the will of the gods, 
and we know all things which have ever taken 
place on the face of the fruitful earth." 

In this song there is no appeal to the sen- 
sual, but only to his pride and to his eagerness 
for knowledge. It was the proffer of knowl- 
edge which tempted Eve in the Garden of 
Eden, and Odysseus would have fallen, as Eve 
fell, if he had not been saved by the wax in 
the ears of his companions, for they were out 
of the reach of temptation. Homer agrees 
with the Biblical narrative in believing that the 
desire for knowledge is the strongest of all 
human appeals. 

Although Homer dared to put in words the 
song of the Sirens, he did not dare to describe 
the beauty of Helen, yet he was able to give a 
wonderful impression of that beauty by show- 
ing the effect it had on others, and those others 
were not passionate and susceptible youths but 
the old men of Troy. As these old men, too 
feeble to fight, yet full of bitterness at the 
misery Helen had brought to them, sat on the 
walls of their city they saw her approaching, 
and as they looked on her face they forgot 
their resentment and could only say: " It is no 
wonder that Trojans and Greeks have suffered 



long for such a woman, since her face is as the 
face of an immortal god." When men in their 
plight could not think of censure because of 
the beauty of such a woman, she must have 
been surpassingly beautiful. 

Omitting such minor characters as Dolon, 
Calchas, Theoclymenus, Pisistratus, and others 
of that secondary prominence, of whom there 
are at least a score who act and speak, also 
omitting all the gods and omitting all the 
shades encountered in Hades and all the 
characters of Fairyland, we find that Homer 
has created or made use of about forty leading 
actors. Each of these forty speaks and acts 
with an independent and definite person- 
ality, so that it is possible to form a picture 
and to write a character sketch of him. 
Compare this with the almost total absence 
of individualism in the characters of most 
of the twelve disciples named in the New 

Spiess in his Menschenart ^^ und Heldentum 
has drawn pen-portraits of twenty-seven actors 
*of the Iliad alone. All of these actors, found 
in both poems, are portrayed with such power, 
such distinctness, that it is impossible to say 
that Homer excels in presenting any one class 



of people. Of these forty leading characters, 
but four, Nestor, Menelaus, Odysseus, and 
Helen, take part in both poems. 

Homer's willingness to create different types 
of characters seems endless, and the genius 
which created a bluff and dense soldier such 
as an Ajax tarried for a moment to sketch the 
delicate figure of a Nausicaa, merely that 
Odysseus might have a guide to the palace of 
the Phaeacians. The poet could have econo- 
mized by permitting the hero to observe the 
palace from some eminence and then by allow- 
ing Athena to direct his going; a thing the 
goddess really did in the end. 

The crossing out of a few verses would com- 
pletely detach Nausicaa from the story of the 
Odyssey. Nausicaa furnishes abundant proof 
that we are not dealing with uninspired com- 
pilers or careful revisers, but with the lavish 
extravagance of thriftless genius. 

No one of all these actors in Homer repre- 
sents a type, but all are human beings with 
the limitations and the contradictions of real 

Homer has over two-hundred complete 
similes and also many simple comparisons, 
such as "Apollo came like the night," or 



" Thetis arose like a mist." These similes 
are so vivid and so easily understood that they 
have furnished a poetic storehouse for the 
most varied writers; even a book so remote 
as Fielding's Tom Jones abounds with similes 
in the Homeric manner. 

The religious element in Homer is so sub- 
ordinated to poetic ends that it is impossible 
to frame an Homeric theology, yet the gods 
control all; men may delay but cannot thwart 
their purposes. The will of Zeus is always 
decisive but he was under the constant in- 
fluence of Athena, who in both poems accom- 
plishes her aims by winning the approval of her 
all-powerful father. 

Homer's gods seem only remotely connected 
with righteousness, and the prayers always 
assume that the one praying has put the gods 
under some obligation and thus the prayer is 
a demand for the repayment of a favor. The 
first prayer of the Iliad: ^^ O Apollo, if I have 
ever roofed for thee a pleasing temple, or have 
burned for thee the fat thighs of bullocks or of 
goats, then grant me this request," shows the 
worshipper's attitude. 

All Homeric prayers are practical and are 
appeals for victory, vengeance, or prosperity, 



but there is no fervent seeking for a pure heart 
or for personal righteousness. 

The gods are represented as all-knowing, 
all-powerful, and everywhere-present, but, even 
so, they can be deceived and their plans frus- 
trated in contradiction of their omniscience 
and omnipotence; while in the first book of 
the Iliad the action was delayed because the 
gods had gone to a long revel with the Ethi- 
opians and could not be consulted, — a fiat 
denial of their omnipresence. 

The evident immorality and helplessness of 
the Homeric gods early caused heart-burnings 
in the devout admirers of the poet and they 
tried to explain away their misgivings by the 
assumption that these gods were largely natural 
forces and that they were to be understood 
only as allegories. This one example will ex- 
plain the method: Hephaestus is said by 
Homer to have been hurled down from heaven 
and only after lying helpless for a long time 
to have been restored to life, but he never com- 
pletely recovered from the effects of this fall 
and he continued to hobble with a distorted leg. 
This unnatural cruelty of a father to his faith- 
ful son is thus explained: ''Hephaestus is an 
allegory for the two forms of fire, the heavenly 



and the earthly fire. The fire in the heaven 
is perfect and needs no fuel, the fire that has 
come down to earth is imperfect and must be 
fed. The earthly fire is fed or supported by 
wood, and as lame men walk with wooden 
canes, so the fire that feeds on wood is said 
to be supported by something like a cane, 
hence is itself called lame." 

In Homer there are no military or priestly 
classes. When Menelaus, Nestor, Odysseus, 
and the rest returned to their homes they 
doffed their armor and took up work of much 
the same nature as that done by the common 
people. Among the progressive states of 
Greece, soldiers and priests never thwarted the 
search for truth and the efforts to establish 
liberty under law; the thing that more than 
all else separated the thinking of the Greeks 
from their Egyptian or Asiatic neighbors. All 
this is in Homer, but it is hard to believe that 
he single-handed created that tolerant atmos- 
phere to which the world owes the great in- 
tellectual achievements of Hellas. 

The Homeric gods have long lost their 
influence in the realm of theology but they 
still hold their place in the mechanism of 
poetry, even in the imagination of a public 



but dimly acquainted with antiquity. The 
gods of Norse or of Hindu mythology have not 
supplanted the gods of Homer in the poetic 
sphere, and his muse is still the patron of song. 
When Hamlet pictured his father as having: 

The front of Jove himself, 
An eye like Mars to threaten and command, 
A station like the herald Mercury, 

he is using Homeric mythology and is parallel- 
ing, if not imitating, the description of Aga- 
memnon as given in the Iliad: 

His eye, and lofty brow the counterpart 
Of Jove, the lord of thunder, in his girth 
Another Mars, with Neptune^s ample chest. 

In the Tempest, Shakespeare introduces Iris, 
Ceres, Juno, and the Nymphs as speaking in 
Homeric character, and Iris says of Aphrodite: 

I met her deity cutting 
The clouds towards Paphos, . . . in vain 
Mars* hot minion has returned again. 

This is drawn from the song of Demodocus in 
which Aphrodite after her frustrated tryst with 
Ares sped back to Paphos, the seat of her 
favorite shrine. 



The use of Homeric mythology is all -per- 
vasive and in all grades of literature, from the 
highest flights of Shakespeare and Milton to 
the last jokes in the daily papers and the ex- 
cited descriptions of the latest prize-fight. 

Closely akin to mythology is the long list of 
famous men and women who have passed from 
the verses of Homer into the common language 
of the race and who stand for something akin 
to human types: Hecuba, the broken-hearted 
mother, Priam, the faithful and aged father, 
Nestor, the wise but garrulous old man, Paris, 
the fop and the coward, Hector, the noble 
husband and the self-devoted prince. The 
contrast between the things which these broth- 
ers represent is well shown in the familiar 
verses of Longfellow: 

Better like Hector in the field to die 
Than like a perjumed Paris turn and fly. 

Hector was not only the devoted warrior but 
he was a brother who felt deeply the shame 
brought on the family and city by Paris, and, 
because of the indignation over that shame, 
he soundly berated him, hence this side of his 
nature has given the words '^ to hector " and 



" hectoring," words found in the writings of a 
man as remote from the stream of the classics 
as John Bunyan. 

Achilles is still the type of the outspoken 
and fearless youth who preferred an early 
death to seeming dishonor; also the other side 
is shown in the phrase, " sulking Achilles," or 
even when he is not named, in the expression, 
"sulking in his tent," with a reference to his 

Ajax represents the big and powerful fighter 
who relies on his brute strength and sweats 
under a seven- fold shield. Shakespeare refers 
to him as " beef-witted Ajax." In modern in- 
dustry machines and equipments of great 
power are often named after him, and the city 
of Chicago alone has sixteen factories which 
make various Ajax tools or devices. 

Teucer, the clever archer, Patroclus, the 
faithful companion, constantly appear in 
modern literature, while the very name of 
Mentor, the guide of Telemachus, has come to 
mean guide, counsellor, and friend. 

In addition to these prominent actors there 

are the mythical figures of Circe and Circe's 

wand (so characteristic is this wand that it 

is still used by magicians and conjurers of 



every sort), Calypso, Charybdis, Acheron, 
Aeolus, Aeetes, the Argo, Ariadne, the Ama- 
zons, the Aethiopians, Ate, Amphitrite, Alc- 
mena, Alcestis, Halcyone, Amphiaraus, Amphi- 
tryon, Asclepius, Assaracus, Atlas, Bellerophon, 
Bootes, Briareus, Ganymede, the Giants, 
Daedalus, Dardanus, Deucalion, Dionysus, 
Enyalius, Hesperus, Eumelus, Eurystheus, Eos, 
Themis, Thetis, Thyestes, Jason, Idas, Hippo- 
tades. Iris, Cadmus, Cassandra, Castor and 
Pollux, the Centaurs, the Cimmerians, the 
Cyclops, Laomedon, Marpessa, Memnon, 
Minos, Niobe, Paeeon, Panope, Oedipus, 
Pirithous, Pelops, Proteus, the Sirens, Semele, 
the Gorgon, Jocasta, Sisyphus, Scylla, Tanta- 
lus, Tithonus, the Titans, Hyperion, Chiron, 
Chimaera, the Pygmies, the Lotus-Eaters, the 
Symplegades, Thamyris, Medea, Orion, and 

All these are referred to under attributes 
with which they have ever since been joined. 
It may be that these later traditions were 
created out of inferences drawn from Homer; 
but it seems more probable that the poet was 
referring to familiar tales, tales which somehow 
survived without being incorporated in the 
poetry of Homer. 



To these should be added such words as 
nectar and ambrosia, the drink and food of the 
gods; nepenthe, a drug or magic something 
which deadened the sense of grief or pain; 
moly, an herb capable of withstanding the 
powers of sorcery; ichor, a fluid flowing in the 
veins of the gods; a sardonic smile, and 
Homeric laughter, also rosy-fingered dawn; 
even the word Iliad has passed into a figure 
of speech in such a phrase as " an Iliad of 
woes," and Odyssey in such an expression 
as " an Odyssey of adventures." 

How important the words of this above list 
are in modern literature will be shown by one 
of the lesser and more obscure of the number, 



MENELAUS was unable to get away 
from the island of Pharos and in his 
extremity was met by Eidothea who 
urged him to form an ambush and seize her 
father, Proteus, who had the gift of prophecy 
and who, if firmly seized, would direct Mene- 
laus in methods of escape and would tell him 
also how things at home had fared during his 
long absence. She slew and flayed four seals 
which belonged to the flock of Proteus, then 
she concealed Menelaus and three companions 
under these skins of the seals and told them 
to await the approach of the aged sea-divinity 
and seer, Proteus. About noon the sea-god 
came out of the deep and, having numbered his 
seals and found that none was missing, he 
lay down near them and went to sleep. Mene- 
laus and his companions threw off the skins 
of the seals and tried to seize the aged Pro- 
teus, " But the old man forgot not his crafty 
art and became first of all a bearded lion, next 



he took the form of a serpent, a panther, and 
a huge boar, and then he changed into the 
likeness of running water, after which he be- 
came a tree with towering branches, but all 
this time we held on with determined purpose." 

At last when Proteus saw that his wiles were 
in vain and that his captors would not let him 
go, he assumed his wonted form, became again 
an old man of the sea and told Menelaus how 
he could resume his journey from the island, 
also revealed the fate of many of the com- 
panions he had left at Troy, and ended by 
assuring him of his blessed immortality in the 
fields of Elysium which he was to enjoy with 
his restored and untarnished Helen. " Thus 
having spoken he sank under the billowy waves 
of the sea," and he did not reappear, at least 
in the poetry of Homer. 

This is the Homeric story of Proteus and 
most literary references depend on it: 

Spenser: The Faerie Queene: 

He then devisde himself e how to disguise; 
For by his mighty science he could take 
As many formes and shapes in seeming wise, 
As ever Proteus to himself e cotdd make: 
Sometime a fowle, sometime a fish in lake, 



"Now like a foxe, now like a dragon jell. (I, 2, 10.) 

And, for Ms more assuraunce, she inquired 

One day of Proteus by his mighty spell 

{For Proteus was with prophecy inspired) 

Her deare sonnes destiny to her to tell. (Ill, 4, 


Then like a Faerie knight himself e he drest; 
For every shape on him he could endew: 
Then like a king he was to her exprest, 
And offred kingdoms unto her in vew 
To be his Leman and his Lady trew 
But when all this he nothing saw prevaile, 
With harder meanes he cast her to subdew, 
And with sharpe threat es her often did assayle; 
S^ thinking for to make her stubborne corage 

To dread full shapes he did himself e trans forme: 
Now like a Gyaunt; now like to a feend; 
Then like a Centaure; then like to a storme 
Raging within the waves. (Ill, 8, 40 and 41.) 


Vll play the orator as well as Nestor, 
Deceive more slyly than Ulysses could, 
I can add colours to the cameleon, 
Change shapes with Proteus, for advantages. 

The words of Richard: Henry VI, Part III, 
III, 2. 



Sometime a horse I'll be^ sometime a hound, 

A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire; 

And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and 

Like horse, hound^ hog, bear, fire, at every turn. 

The words of Puck: A Midsummer-Night's 
Dream, III, i. 

Proteus is the name of the treacherous and 
fickle lover in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, 


In vain, though by their powerful art they bind 
Volatile Hermes, and call up unbound 
In various shapes old Proteus from the sea, 
Drained through a limbec to his native form. 
Paradise Lost, III, 602. 

The song in Camus 867 ff. abounds In 
Homeric allusions and in it Proteus is called 
" the Carpathian Wizard," a typical example 
of Milton's display of great erudition. 

Dryden: Hind And Panther, III, 818: 
O Proteus conscience ^ never to be tied! 

Pope: The Dunciad, I, 37 ff: 

VLence bards, like Proteus long in vain tied down, 

Escape in monsters, and amaze the town, 



The Dunciad, II, 129 ff: 
So Proteus, hunted in a nobler shape, 
Became, when seized, a puppy or an ape. 

Satire, The First Epistle of The First Book 
of Horace, 151: 

Did ever Proteus, Merlin, any witch 

Transform themselves so strangely as the Rich? 

Thomas Gray: The Characters of The Christ- 
Cross Row, 43: 
Trotetis-like, all tricks, all shapes can show, 

Shelley: Prometheus Unbound, III, 2, 24: 
'Blue Proteus and his humid nymphs shall mark 
The shadow of fair ships; 

Ibidem, III, 3, 65 ff: 

Cdve her that curved shell, which Proteus old 
Made Asia's nuptial boon, breathing within it 
A voice to be accomplished. 

The Triumph of Life, 271 ff: 
1/ Bacon's eagle spirit had not leapt 
"Like lightning out of darkness — he compelled 
The Proteus shape of Nature as it slept, 
To wake, and lead him to the caves that held 
The treasure of the secrets of its reign. 



Coleridge: Lines To An Autumnal Evening, 

45 ff: 
Or mine the power af Proteus, change fid God! 
A flower entangled Arbour I would seem 
To shield my love from Noontide*s sultry beam: 
Or bloom a Myrtle, from whose odorous boughs 
My Love might weave gay garlands for her 

When Twilight stole across the fading vale, 
To fan my Love Vd be the Evening Gale; 
Mourn in the soft folds of her swelling vest. 
And flutter my faint pinions on her breast! 
On Seraph wing Vd float a dream by night, 
To soothe my love with shadows of delight: — 
Or soar aloft to be the Spangled Skies, 
And gaze upon her with a thousand eyes! 

In his Biographia Liter aria, II, 20, he refers to 
Shakespeare thus: "Shakespeare passes into 
all forms of human character and passion, a 
Proteus of the fire and the flood, he becomes 
all things, yet for ever remains himself." 

Wordsworth: Miscellaneous Sonnets, XXXIII: 

The world is too much with us: . . . 

. . . Great God! I'd rather be 

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn: 

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 



Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
'Rave sight of Proteus rising from the sea. 

To the Clouds, 72 ff: 

Moon and stars 
Keep their most solemn vigils when the Clouds 
VJatch also, shifting peaceably their place 
Like bands of ministering spirits, or when they 

As if some Protean art the change had wrought. 
In listless quiet o'er the ethereal deep 
Scattered, a Cyclades of various shapes 
And all degrees of beauty. 

The River Duddon, Sonnet, IV: 

A Protean change seems wrought while I pursue 
The curves, a loosely scattered chain doth make; 
Or rather thou appear'st a glistering snake. 
Silent, and to the gazer's eye untrue. 

Hazlitt in his essay, Character of Burke, 
complains that he can describe other orators, 
but as for Burke, " Who can bind Proteus or 
confine the roving flight of genius? " 

Emerson abounds with references to Pro- 
teus; these three quotations will illustrate the 
meaning that word bore in his writings. 

Essay on History: ''Each new law and 



political movement has meaning for you. 
Stand before each of its tablets and say, 
^ Under this mask did my Proteus nature hide 
itself,' " and again in this same Essay: '' The 
philosophical perception of identity through 
endless mutations of form makes him (man) 
know the Proteus. What else am I who 
laughed or wept yesterday, who slept last night 
a corpse, and this morning stood and ran? 
And what see I on any side but the transmi- 
grations of Proteus? " 

Essay on Nature: " The fable of Proteus 
has a cordial truth. Each particle (in nature) 
is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the Hke- 
ness of the world." 

Roden Noel: Essays on Poets and Poetry, 
page 264: In discussing Browning's great 
ability in psychological analysis and the diffi- 
culty there involved. 

"The Protean soul ever eluding her own 
self-knowledge and the knowledge of others, 
by assuming infinite marks and shapes." 

These quotations are only a selection from a 
vast number of references to Proteus in Eng- 
lish literature. 

His name has passed over into the realms of 
botany, biology, and zoology, denoting in each 



case extreme instability or changeableness. It 
has even entered the domain of slang, to denote 
an actor who is obliged to assume inferior and 
changing roles. 

References to this god are in all classes 
of literature, and a recent publication, Jokes 
For All Occasions, tries in the Introduction to 
give a definition of wit, then in despair adds: 
"It is as hard to settle a clear and definite 
notion of wit as it is to make a portrait of 

During the celebration of the festival of the 
Mardi Gras at New Orleans there is the Car- 
nival or Ball of Proteus at which the leader 
assumes to be that divinity, and he must al- 
ways appear in a new guise and a new costume. 
The ingenuity of uniform designers is taxed to 
make a new creation each year, a creation 
which must also show that the leader is assum- 
ing to be a divinity of the sea. 

Proteus has even become a Christian name, 
and the full name of the great electrician is 
given as Charles Proteus Steinmetz. I do not 
know whether he had this name from birth or 
not, but the application of the name of the 
wizard of the sea to the wizard of electricity 
looks like an after-thought. 



The widespread influence of this divinity is 
but typical of most of the creations of Homer. 
A Tantalus, Circe, or Niobe would show simi- 
lar extension; while Helen, Hecuba, Hector, or 
Nestor would so overwhelm with material as 
to daunt the most eager student. 

Even all these gods, heroes, fables, ideas, 
and words, so widely used and known, reveal 
but faintly the influence of Homer. 

Aristotle founded his immensely important 
theory of poetry on what the Iliad and the 
Odyssey actually are, regarding them as the 
standard of perfection both in plan and in 

Professor Dixon says: " In the centuries 
during which the ideal of heroic poetry was 
in debate Homer was without a serious rival. 
He is without a rival still.'' ^^ 

His influence is to be estimated by the fact 
that at the very beginning of our literature he 
set up an ideal and gave an example which has 
inspired and guided all writers influenced by 
European civilization. He is the dominating 
force with those who have read him and also 
with those who have read him not, for he cre- 
ated the atmosphere in which liberalizing cul- 
ture has continued to abide. 



ALL Greek art, society, and literature 
assume the poetry of Homer as 
a background and a foundation. 
Xenophanes, the first writer in whose works is 
found the name of Homer, says: '' From the 
beginning, for all have learned from him." 
Plato refers to him as the one who has trained 
Hellas, and calls him " the best and the most 
divine of poets," ^^ the greatest of poets and 
the first of the dramatists." 

He was regarded by entire Hellas as the 
greatest poet, the father of tragedy, the pat- 
tern for oratory, the source of theology, the 
leader in all civilizing pursuits, so that Plato 
called him: '' the poet wise in all things." 

Cicero could say with but little exaggeration: 
^' Homer because of his outstanding excellence 
made the common name ' poet ' his own proper 
name," and Philo to the same effect: ''Al- 
though there were unnumbered poets, Homer 
was meant when the word ' poet ' was used." ^^ 



Then by a sudden shift Homer was well-nigh 
deprived of his own name and Plato was called 
" Homerus Philosophorum" Aesop, " Homerus 
jabularum" Sophocles, " Homericus Tragicus'' 
and Sappho, *' the female Homer" In each 
case the word Homer was intended to convey 
superlative honor. 

Coins were struck with his likeness, days 
were named for him, and recurring festivals 
celebrated in his memory. Artists strove to 
reproduce with paint, marble, clay, or metal 
his conceptions or his characters, and gram- 
mars were first needed and prepared in order 
to discuss the Homeric language. 

Protagoras has the honor of being the first 
to discuss the significance of the moods, and 
his query regarding the use of the imperative 
in the first verse of the Iliad, whether or not 
a divinity should be addressed with an impera- 
tive, may well have been the first step towards 
a scientific treatment of that important part 
of syntax. 

Homer used many words which were archaic 
even in his own age and which were difficult of 
interpretation in subsequent times, hence the 
need for explanation and the creation of lexica. 
The first of these were devoted solely to the 



elucidation of Homeric vocabulary. This fact 
was so familiar that poets of comedy could 
introduce parents questioning their children on 
the meaning of obsolete or obscure Homeric 

The great Athenian dramas were regularly 
presented in Athens but a single time, yet the 
poetry of Homer and of Homer alone was re- 
cited at each recurring Panathenaic festival; 
thus it was kept constantly fresh in the public 
mind. The fact that the scholars of Alexan- 
dria used, in their recension of the text, copies 
from Sinope, Chios, Argos, and Marseilles, evi- 
dently state or public copies, shows that Athens 
could hardly have been alone in such recitals. 

Greek audiences, despite the frequency with 
which they heard them, never wearied of listen- 
ing to the Homeric poems, and an orator could 
be sure of arousing the interest of his hear- 
ers by repeating verses from the Iliad or the 

Aeschines in a speech, supposed to have been 
delivered before a jury, paraphrased and 
quoted Homeric verses, then turned to the 
clerk and asked him to recite, first the passage 
where Achilles expresses his determination to 
avenge the death of Patroclus, then the words 



of the shade of Patroclus in which Achilles is 
begged to prepare a common burial place for 
them both, and next the warning of Thetis 
that the death of her son will follow close upon 
the slaying of Hector. The clerk is assumed 
to have recited at once the desired passages, 
twenty-six verses in all. 

It seems most improbable that the clerk 
could have taken the time to search a manu- 
script in order to find the requested scenes, 
but he must have recited at once from memory. 
Aeschines never asked him if he knew the 
verses and seems to have taken that knowledge 
as a matter of course. Verses from Hesiod and 
Euripides are also quoted in this same speech, 
but Aeschines does not call upon the clerk to 
recite them, he does that himself. 

This knowledge of Homer on the part of a 
clerk would be no novelty, since we know that 
Homer was committed to memory by the intel- 
lectual elite of the Socratic circle and we are 
told that even the Borysthenes almost all knew 
the Iliad by heart, although they were a rude 
people living on the banks of the distant 
Dnieper River. 

Socrates in the speech given at his trial an- 
swered his advisers, who urged him to desist 



from the search for truth and thus to follow 
a safe course, by quoting the Homeric example 
of Achilles, who preferred an early death to 
seeming dishonor; then, when Socrates was con- 
demned to death he consoled his friends and 
himself with the hope that death would make 
it possible for him to question Agamemnon and 
Odysseus, and that he could be with Homer. 
While he was in prison and his end was near 
he thought a divine spirit had given him a 
revelation through the medium of an Homeric 

Wherever the Greeks went Homer went with 
them. He was known from India to Marseilles, 
from the Dnieper to the upper Nile, and so 
great was his prominence that among the lit- 
erary papyri found in Egypt about three hun- 
dred are from Homer, while the poet who ranks 
as second in the number of such papyri is 
Euripides, who has but twenty-seven.^^ 

The career of Alexander the Great was 
largely an attempt to realize the Homeric ideal 
and to duplicate the glory of Achilles. Alex- 
ander on all his campaigns carried with him 
a copy of the Iliady calling it a perfect, port- 
able treasure of military virtue. Many of that 
conqueror's acts would have little meaning, if 



we did not know that he was imitating both 
the passion and the extravagance of the 
Homeric hero.^* 

Homer was the greatest single force in mak- 
ing of the Greeks a kindred people and in giv- 
ing them a mutually understandable language 
and common ideals. This poetry not only per- 
meated all classes of society and reached the 
utmost confines of Greek civilization, but its 
influence continued throughout the entire 
Greek period itself, felt alike in Hesiod, the 
poet nearest in time to Homer, and in Julian 
the Apostate, who tried in vain to restore the 
ancient gods to a position of power and rever- 
ence. The last efforts made by Hypatia to 
bring back the beliefs and ideals of early 
Greece were connected with Homeric poetry. 

The words of Dio Chrysostom: " Homer is 
first, middle, and last for every boy, for every 
man in vigor, and for every man in old age," 
hold true to all parts and to all periods of 
Greece, to a Plato and Aristotle in Athens and 
to shepherds and fishermen on the Pontus. 

Heraclitus told the story of the glory that 
was Greece in these words: "Our earliest 
infancy was intrusted to the care of Homer, 
as if he had been a nurse, and while still in 



our swaddling clothes we were fed on his 
verses, as if they had been our mother's milk. 
As we grew to youth we spent that youth with 
him, together we spent our vigorous manhood, 
and even in old age we continued to find our 
joy in him. If we laid him aside we soon 
thirsted to take him up again. There is but 
one terminus for men and Homer, and that is 
the terminus of life itself." [This Heraclitus 
is not the famous philosopher but an inter- 
preter of Homer living in the earlier years of 
the Roman Empire.] 

Even the early Christians felt it necessary 
to connect their faith with the Homer of their 
fathers, hence they re-wrote the story of the 
birth, life, and death of Jesus into poems made 
up entirely of tags and of verses from Homer. 
We have such a poem, supposed to be the 
work of Patricius, a bishop, and of Eudocia, 
the empress and the wife of the younger 

This poem is of such great significance as an 
illustration of the lasting reverence for Homer 
that I have thought it worth while to add here 
the translation of a part of it, the account of 
the birth of Jesus, the star and the shepherds. 
In these verses not a single change had been 



made either in form or in arrangement of the 
Homeric original. 

But when the laboring goddess of childbirth, (II., 
XVI, 187) 

One month just ending and another already begin- 
ning, (Od., XIV, 162) 

Brought him to light, and he saw the rays of the 
sun, (IL, XVI, 188) 

The year having finished its course, the hours came, 

(Od, XI, 29s) 
A gleam reached to heaven, and all the earth 

laughed. (II., XIX, 362) 

All the old men and likewise the young men also 

(II., II, 789) 
Were surprised and their spirit fell to their feet; 

(IL, XV, 280) 

Then a star arose brightest of all, a star which 

(Od., XIII, 93) 
Shines clearest, after it has bathed in the ocean, 

(IL, V, 6) 
Showing a sign to men with its wonderfully bright 

beams, (IL, XIII, 244) 
Which a shepherd in the fields with his flocks (IL, 

V, 137) 

Marveled at in his heart, for he believed it a god. 
(Od, I, 323). 

[ 100 ] 


Certainly these verses reveal but little of the 
account as given in the New Testament, but 
they do show a pathetic attempt to re-tell the 
story of Jesus in words with which these late 
Greeks and early Christians must have been 
thoroughly familiar, and they show also the 
long-continued influence of Homer. 

With Homer Greek culture began, with him 
it flourished, with him it won dominion, with 
him it fell, and with him it rose again. He was 
the first adequately to express the Hellenic 
spirit and he was the last to keep it alive. 
No other great people has been so much the 
creation of a single person, and he was to the 
Greeks their law-giver, teacher, and poet, 
combining in himself the characters of Moses, 
David, and the prophets. 

What the Greeks might have been, if there 
had been no Homer, we cannot guess, but what 
they were at their best was largely because of 
him. Hellenic influence is in no small meas- 
ure the influence of Homer. 



THE Romans were slow in turning 
their minds to creative and imagina- 
tive literature, but long confined their 
efforts to short war songs, legal enactments, 
monumental inscriptions, annals, and short 
encomiums in praise of the dead or of ances- 
tors. Homer was far from all these and exerted 
little or no influence on Roman thought until 
the end of the First Punic War, when Livius 
Andronicus created the first piece of literary 
work in the Latin language of which any im- 
portant fragments have been preserved, and 
that was a version of the Odyssey composed in 
the native Saturnian verse. 

Homer thus became in a measure for the 
Romans what he had been for the Greeks, the 
source of learning and letters, since this Latin 
Odyssey was the book used in the instruction 
of the young, and Horace as a boy, nearly two 
centuries later, was obliged to commit to mem- 
ory from dictation this old Latin Odyssey. 

The real beginnings of Latin literature date 
from the next generation with Ennius, known 


as the father of Latin poetry, who turned to 
the traditions of his own people for the theme 
of his epic, the Annales. Livius Andronicus 
had translated Homer into the Saturnian verse, 
but Ennius abandoned this native rhythm and 
in spite of the difficulties of the language wrote 
his epic in the dactylic hexameter of Homer, 
thus eliminating the native poetic tendencies. 

Ennius believed that Homer had appeared 
to him in a vision and had assured him that 
his own soul had passed into the body of En- 
nius, hence his aspiration to be the Homer of 
Italy. The Iliad and the Odyssey furnished 
the poetic ideals and inspiration for the An- 
nales. Skutsch, one of the best modern au- 
thorities, says: ^' Ennius showed that Homer's 
soul had possessed him, not only by the use 
of the Homeric hexameter and Homer's for- 
mulae, but also by the borrowing of phrases, 
verses, tags, and descriptions." ^^ So thor- 
oughly was the Annales permeated with the 
spirit of Homer that Ennius was called a sec- 
ond Homer, alter Homerus. 

Cicero excused his own borrowings from 
Plato and Aristotle by saying that Ennius had 
transferred verses from Homer into his own 



Homer through Livius and Ennius became 
a dominating influence at the very beginning 
of Roman literature. 

It is a striking indication of the immortality 
of Homer that, although he was older by many 
centuries than Ennius, his works have survived 
while the poetry of Ennius has practically dis- 
appeared, since we have but small fragments 
of his works, not over one-fortieth of the whole. 

Ennius was native to the language of Greece, 
hence knew Homer in his own tongue and did 
not rely on the translation of the Odyssey 
which had been made by Livius. It was not 
until the end of the second century B.C. that 
the Iliad was translated into Latin, when 
Matius and Crassus each made a Latin ver- 
sion of the Iliad, Both used the hexameter 
of the original, as the Latin Saturnian had be- 
come obsolete; such was the preeminence of 
the Homeric meter. 

With the beginning of the first century, the 
great age of Roman literature, the influence of 
Homer had become almost universal in Rome. 
Cicero tried his hand at translating into hexa- 
meters various passages from Homer, e.g., the 
song of the Sirens and other famous passages. 
The longest continuous translation from Homer 


which has been preserved in the works of 
Cicero is the speech of Odysseus when he re- 
peated to the Greeks the story of the nine 
sparrows eaten by the serpent, giving a version 
of thirty-two verses. 

Cicero was an Homeric enthusiast and in 
his Pro Archia he quotes the envious words of 
Alexander, spoken at the tomb of Achilles: 
" O fortunate Achilles who didst find in Homer 
a herald of thy glory! " then Cicero adds: 
"True indeed, for without Homer the same 
mound that covers his ashes would cover his 
glory also.'' 

The letters of Cicero were written for pri- 
vate purposes and not for publication or dis- 
play, hence his quotations in them from Homer 
prove that Homer was familiar to him and to 
those who received the letters. 

These Homeric quotations in the letters of 
Cicero extend over the period from 65 to 
44 B.C. In the letter to Atticus which is given 
first place, Ad Att., I, i, 4, Cicero compares 
the prize for which he is striving with that for 
which Hector ran with Achilles in the race for 
his own life, " Since he was not running to win 
the hide of an ox or a sacrificial victim." In 
the letter he wrote to Atticus in Nov. 44, he 



put two quotations from Homer. Forty-nine 
of these letters have such quotations, some let- 
ters containing several. In a letter to Julius 
Caesar in which he recommends the son of a 
friend in his application for appointment to 
some official position there are four quotations 
from Homer, two of which have two entire 
verses, each. The tone of the letters shows that 
Caesar could be presumed to be very familiar 
with Homer, and this familiarity seems to have 
been common among the better Romans for 
several centuries. When Marcus Porcius Cato 
heard of the exploits of Scipio in Africa, he 
exclaimed: "He alone keeps his discretion, 
while all the rest as shadows flit about." (This 
is the description of Tiresias in the Odyssey.) 
When he saw Carthage in flames, Scipio re- 
peated the forebodings of Hector: "A day 
shall come when Troy shall fall, and Priam, 
and the people of Priam of good ashen spear," 
evidently foreseeing the fate of Rome in the 
ruin of Carthage. This same Scipio, when he 
heard of the death of the liberal and reformer, 
Tiberius Gracchus, exclaimed in the words of 
Athena concerning the doom of Aegisthus: 
" Thus may perish even another, whoever does 
such deeds." In Cicero's time of pride and 


glory Sextus quoted to him the words of 
Hector: '' May I meet my end, not slothfully 
and ingloriously, but having finished some 
great exploit to be renowned even among 
future generations." [This was Sextus Pedu- 

As Brutus was about to sail from Italy his 
wife began to weep at sight of a painting which 
represented the parting of Hector and Andro- 
mache, when one of the friends repeated: 
'' But Hector thou art to me father, mother, 
and brother, and thou art also my glorious 
husband." Brutus instantly took up the quo- 
tation and, smiling, said in the original Greek 
that unlike Andromache she was not bidden 
'' to attend the loom and the distaff." This 
little incident with its setting shows how thor- 
oughly at home Homer had become among the 
Romans. At a magnificent banquet in honor 
of his birthday, Brutus took up a cup, and, as 
he held it high, he pronounced the dying words 
of Patroclus: "An evil fate and Leto's son 
have brought me to ruin," — a verse which 
seemed prophetic of his own doom. When 
Brutus and Cassius were quarrelling, Marcus 
Favonius, a Roman senator, rushed into their 
presence and tried to calm them by quot- 


ing the speech of Nestor, beginning with the 
words : ^' Obey me, for you are both younger 
than I." 

The Roman emperors in moments of excite- 
ment would quote Homer in his own language. 
It is said that Augustus, humiliated by the 
licentiousness of his daughter, repeated the 
words spoken to Paris by Hector: " O that 
you had perished unwed, or had ne'er been 
born." At another time, when Augustus made 
Tiberius his heir and successor, he quoted the 
words which Diomede had used regarding 
Odysseus, as he chose him his companion for 
a night foray: "If this man follows me, we 
can both come safely back even from blazing 
fire, since he is extremely shrewd in planning." 

Even the brutal Caligula was so versed in 
Homer that he could shout to some subordi- 
nate kings who were striving among them- 
selves: " Let there be one lord and one king," 
and he, Caligula, defied Jupiter with the words 
of Ajax: " Either raise me aloft, or I will raise 
you." Claudius reveled in his ability to quote 
Homer, and it is said that once when he pun- 
ished a foe he ordered his death with the 
Homeric verse: "Ward off the man, since 
he has been the first to show violence." This 


foible of quoting verses from Homer is made 
the matter of clever satire by Seneca, who 
wrote a poem to glorify the emperor's admis- 
sion to a place among the gods. When the 
officers of Nero had revolted and he was forced 
to flee, he knew that the horsemen were near 
who had been sent to capture him, and as he 
heard them approach he uttered the words of 
Nestor: "The sound of fleet steeds rings in 
my ears," and put his sword to his own throat. 
The knowledge of Homer which these quo- 
tations indicate continued throughout all the 
period of the Empire and even survived its 

Homer and Virgil 

Hov^EVER, Homer's greatest influence on Ro- 
man letters and through them on subsequent 
centuries has been through none of the Cae- 
sars, but through the Aeneid of Virgil, a poem 
written under Homeric influence, abounding 
in Homeric scenes, and showing throughout 
Homeric imitation, and yet of such outstand- 
ing greatness that, although left unfinished, it 
has given its author a position that for cen- 
turies permitted him to challenge supremacy 
with Homer himself. Virgil is now given in 
[ 109 ] 


general a position subordinate to Homer, but 
this is due to the rising estimate of Homer, not 
to any less appreciation of Virgil. 

The Iliad is a war poem, the Odyssey a 
poem of travel and adventure. Virgil decided 
to add a third poem to this small group, and 
with the first words, arma virumque cano, 
showed that he intended to cover the theme of 
each of the other poems. The Odyssey told 
of the wanderings and struggles of a victorious 
Greek after he had left conquered Troy for 
his home in the west, and the i4e;^e/dshows the 
other side of that picture by telling the fate of 
the Trojans and the story of one of the con- 
quered as he fled from that same Troy and also 
sought a home in the remoter ^est. Each had 
to win a victory and to conquer for himself a 
place where he might live and rule. 

The story of the Aeneid is thus exactly con- 
temporary with that of the Odyssey, and 
Aeneas must have been entertained at the court 
of Dido at the very time that Odysseus was 
lingering in the island of Calypso. 
/ Virgil was obliged to depend on the Iliad 
^and the Odyssey for his descriptions of the 
• manners, implements, and customs of the civi- 
lization which formed the background for his 


<l^poem, since Homer was the only authority for 
Lthe life of the heroic age. 

The Aeneid was nothing less than the bold 
attempt to arouse Roman patriotism and to 
create national enthusiasm by means of a lit- 
erary creation constructed on Homeric founda- 
tions and largely out of Homeric materials. 

The Iliad furnished the hero, Aeneas the son 
of Venus and Anchises, and it also furnished 
the driving motive of the poem, the anger of 
Juno, and it likewise furnished the pattern for 
the war and the battles by which the native 
races were subdued. The Odyssey furnished 
the outline for the journeyings and for most of 
the adventures in or near fairyland, but the in- 
fluence of both poems is evident in all parts of 
the poem, even if the first six books roughly 
correspond to the Odyssey, the last six books 
to the Iliad. 

Some of the structural similarities with the 
Odyssey are the following: several years of 
the hero's wanderings have passed before the 
action of the poem begins; the hero is driven 
by a storm to a region where his glory is al- 
ready known; Odysseus hears a song in which 
his own praise is sung and Aeneas sees repre- 
sentations of his own greatness done in bronze; 



each is urged to tell of his wanderings and his 
name; and each takes up in the same manner 
the story of his miseries and adventures. 

In both poems the story of the hero's own 
adventures is told in the first person, " I suf- 

^^ fered this, or I did that," but when they leave 
the land to which they had been storm-driven, 
the poet tells the tale in his own person and 

I both Odysseus and Aeneas act and speak in 

^the third person. 

The storm is similarly described in both, 
even the same minute details reappear, e.g., 
Homer says: " Poseidon covered sea and land 
alike with clouds, and night came down from 
the heavens," and Virgil renders it thus: 

Eripiunt subito nubes caelumque diemque 
Teucrorum ex oculis; ponto nox incubat atra. 

Aeneas as well as Odysseus passed by or 
near Scylla, Charybdis, Circe, and the Sirens, 
but it was obviously impossible for them both 
to have had similar adventures with the Cy- 
clops, for that monster had but one eye, and 
this single eye could not have twice been 
blinded. Virgil introduced the shrewd device 
of having Odysseus abandon unknowingly one 
of his companions in the haunts of the Cyclops, 



then having this abandoned companion appeal 
to Aeneas for safety and tell to Trojan ears 
the horrible tale of the fate of his own asso- 
ciates within the cave of Polyphemus. 

Jupiter sent Mercury to make known his 
purpose that Aeneas must not remain with 
Dido, as the same god was sent by him to 
Calypso to perform a like service concerning 

Games were held in honor of Anchises, ex- 
actly as they had been held in honor of Patro- 
clus. A ship-race is substituted for the chariot- 
race, but the incidents are very similar. In 
some of the other contests the very details of 
the Iliad are repeated. In the foot-race of the 
Homeric games Ajax, the son of Oileus, is 
about to win, when he slips and falls in the 
dung and filth of slaughtered oxen; so also 
Nisus who is in front of the runners falls down 
in the gore and filth of cattle which had just 
been slain. 

In Homer's account of the contest in archery 
it is said that a dove was fastened by a thong 
to a pole or mast; then the announcement was 
made that the one who cut the thong would 
receive the second prize, the one who hit the 
bird would be the winner. In this contest 



Teucer shot and missed the bird, but cut the 
thong so that the loosened bird flew aloft, but 
Meriones, who was all-prepared, slew the bird 
as it flew and thus won the first prize. 

There is a logical difficulty in this contest, 
for had the first archer succeeded in the easier 
task of hitting the tethered bird the second 
archer could have had no contest, for he cer- 
tainly would not have aimed at the thong. 
One would have supposed that Virgil could 
have made a slight change here and thus have 
provided a real contest, but he did not; for in 
this same contest in archery Mnestheus' shot 
severs the cord which bound the bird and as 
it flies aloft it is transfixed by the arrow shot 
from the bow of Eurytion. Virgil could not 
represent the great archer of the Trojans, Pan- 
darus, as. victor, for Pandarus had been slain, 
but he represents Eurytion as the brother of 
that treacherous bowman. 

Such athletic contests as are described by 
both of these poets were the very life of the 
ancient Greeks and their greatest glory was the 
athletic prize, but such contests held no high 
place among the Romans, and the feelings 
aroused in a Greek by such descriptions had no 
counterpart in their emotions. The games in 



Virgil are not only an imitation, but they are 
exotic, foreign to Latin life and thought. 

Aeneas, too, was forced to take a trip to 

Hades in order to consult the shade of An- 

/ chises, just as Odysseus had made the same 

I journey to consult the shade of Tiresias. 

'v When Odysseus was starting on this journey, 

■^ one of his companions had died from accident 

1 unobserved by his companions; this shade of 

the unburied sailor met Odysseus before he 

entered Hades and begged him to perform the 

fitting burial rites, then erect on the top of his 

mound an upright oar, the oar with which in 

life he had rowed with his companions. Aeneas 

in a similar manner learns of the death of his 

follower and promises to erect for him a mound 

and on that mound to fix the oar with which 

he, Misenus, had rowed. 

Aeneas as well as Odysseus found that a 
sword could not avail against the shades, for 
they were unsubstantial phantoms. The silent 
anger with which Ajax turned away from 
Odysseus furnished Virgil the chosen method 
for describing the meeting in Hades of Dido 
and Aeneas. 

The description of the war which occupies 
rnuch of the last six books of the Aeneid 




abounds with incidents taken from the Iliad; 
some of which are inevitable in Homer, but 
have little motive in Virgil; Achilles had loaned 
his own armor to Patroclus and he in turn had 
lost it to Hector, so that Achilles was unpro- 
tected and his mother then went to Hephaestus 
to supply her son's need; the mother of Aeneas 
makes the same trip to the same god and brings 
divine armor for his protection. This armor 
was an ornament, a means of display for 
Aeneas, but it was a necessity for Achilles. 

The walls defending the enemy were stormed 
according to the Homeric methods of warfare, 
and Aeneas' friend, Pallas, was slain; his death 
was mourned with almost the same words by 
which Achilles voiced his grief for Patroclus. 
Aeneas in his anger also took alive sons of the 
foe, to offer them as a propitiation for the 
death of his friend. Aeneas and Turnus, like 
Paris and Menelaus, agree to fight a duel which 
shall decide the issues of the war and to see to 
whom the hand of the princess shall be given, 
but peace does not follow since Aeneas like 
Menelaus was shot from secret ambush. 

At last, when after many delays Aeneas and 
Turnus meet for the decisive struggle, Jove 
puts the destiny of each in the fateful scales, 




when Turnus like Hector turns and flees while 
Aeneas follows in close pursuit; the poet, quot- 
ing Homer, says: 

neque enim levia aut ludicra petuntur 
Praemia, sed Turni de vita et sanguine certant. 

When Turnus falls beneath the blow of 
Aeneas, he like Hector begs that the victor in 
mercy give his body to his own people; Aeneas 
hesitates but when he sees that Turnus wears 
the spoils he had stripped from Pallas, his own 
friend, he gives way to his anger and plunges 
his sword into the body of his fallen and help- 
less foe, and the poem ends with the words: 

Vitaquecum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras, 

like the words with which Homer describes the 
death of Patroclus. It_is no mere chance thaL., 
the Aeneid begins and closes with Homer. 
^ We cannot judge what Virgil might other- 
wise have written, but the present Aeneid with- 
out the Iliad and the Odyssey would have been 
an impossibility. 

Daniel Heinsius, the great Latinist of Ley- 
den, wrote with some exaggeration: Ut mihi 
optima Homeri editio Virgilianum poema 



Conington said: " The Aeneid invites com- 
parison with the Odyssey in the whole external 
form, even in the very title, and contains an 
imitation or a translation from Homer on al- 
most every page,'^ and Nettleship in his revi- 
sion of Conington's Virgil adds: "Vergil con- 
sidered it as his first duty to construct his epic 
in words, manner, and arrangement on the 
model of the Iliad and the Odyssey/' ^^ 

§V^irgil went to Homer as to an inexhaustible 
ae for plot, for incident, and for ornament, 
t of this material he created a Roman epic 
1 of the highest patriotism, worthy of the 
glories of the Caesars and the greatness of the 

Even the meter was a foreign and adopted 
meter; and it was really the praise of Homer 
which Tennyson uttered in his famous apos- 
trophe to Virgil: 

Wielder of the stateliest measure 
ever moulded by the lips of man, 

since it was the Homeric hexameter which ap- 
pears as such stately melody in the measure 
of Virgil. 

Such was the genius of Virgil that in spite 
of his indebtedness to the Iliad and the Odys- 


sey he has been assigned a place of honor by 
ythe side of Homer himself, and during a period 
' of almost one-thousand years Homer's influ- 
ence was saved to civilization through the 
poetry of Virgil. The Greek epics were long 
unread in Europe but the Aeneid never passed 
into oblivion. 

From the beginning of the rule of Augustus 
Homer could hardly be called a foreign poet 
in Rome, as the young were taught to read 
and to quote him in his own language. Horace 
and Ovid quote or refer to him with a famil- 
iarity like that of Plato and Aristotle, and seem 
to regard him as their own. Quintilian advised 
that reading should begin with Homer and 
Virgil, and Pliny wrote: " Boys in the forum 
should begin their legal training with civil 
cases, just as in school they begin with 
Homer." The habit among the Roman boys 
of learning Homer in the original Greek was 
long continued, since Augustine bemoaned the 
difficulty he found as a boy in appreciating 
Homer because of the strangeness of a foreign 
language, and Ausonius wrote to his grandson 
urging the importance of studying Homer. 

It is said of S. Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe 



in the sixth century, that he had committed 
all of Homer to memory; while a boy (date 
uncertain) who died in Ferrara at ten years 
of age was honored with this epitaph: Legi 
pia carmina Homeri. 

The maturer pupils were given themes from 
Homer to work over into rhetorical exercises, 
and the speeches of the Iliad and the Odyssey 
were studied as oratorical models and classified 
according to style and matter. These poems 
were recited in public and at banquets in much 
the same manner as in earlier ages of Greece, 
and Juvenal pictures women as forming clubs 
or societies to discuss the relative merits of 
Homer and Virgil. 

Homer was part of the training and part of 
the mature life of educated Romans for not 
less than five-hundred years. A knowledge of 
his poetry was assumed and it was not affecta- 
tion to quote him in his own language, since 
there were few who could not understand 

The fact that a people who had gained em- 
pire without creating a single piece of pure lit- 
erature which they cared to preserve should 
take over a foreign poet from a conquered 
people, adopt his meter, and make his poetry 


the ideal and the foundation for their own is 
the highest possible tribute which any nation 
could pay to a great poet. 

The influence exerted by Roman literature 
during the Middle Ages and in our own time is 
largely the influence of Homer, for he is hardly 
less the father of Latin than of Greek letters. 



WITH the collapse of the Roman em- 
pire the knowledge of Greek and 
consequently of Homer rapidly di- 
minished in western Europe so that by the 
end of the seventh century he was unknown 
outside of surviving Hellenic civilizations, ex- 
cept as he was quoted by Latin writers or 
found in cramped translations from the Greek. 
A little epitome of the Iliad in less than eleven- 
hundred verses, Ilias Latindf furnished for 
many centuries the chief source of knowledge 
regarding the poetry of Homer. Scholars in 
Constantinople and in the Greek regions of 
southern Italy never lost their knowledge of 
the original Greek and it was from these 
sources that Homer was returned to northern, 
Italy, thence to the rest of Europe. 

Dante knew no Greek and based his great 
tribute to Homer 

Quegli k Omero, poeta sovrano 

on the impression the Iliad and the Odys- 
sey had made on others. Homer is quoted by 


him six times, and all of these passages are 
to be found in the Latin version of Aristotle 
or in Horace.^^ Homer exerted his influence 
on him chiefly through the fact that Dante 
chose Virgil for his guide in that famous jour- 
ney to the regions inhabited by the dead, and 
thus selected the sixth book of the Aeneid, a 
book which depended very largely on the 
eleventh book of the Odyssey. 

The return of Homer to European civiliza- 
tion dates from the year 1354, since in that 
year Sigeros procured in Constantinople for 
Petrarch a Greek manuscript of the Homeric 
poems. Petrarch wrote to the donor : " You 
have sent me from the confines of Europe a 
gift than which nothing could be more worthy 
of the donor, more gratifying to the recipient, 
or more noble in itself. Some make presents 
of gold and silver, others again of jewelry and 
the goldsmith's work. You have given me 
Homer, and, what makes it the more precious. 
Homer pure and undefiled in his own tongue. 
Would, however, that the donor could have ac- 
companied his own gift! for, alas! your Homer 
has no voice for me, or rather I have no ears 
for him! Yet the mere sight of him rejoices 
me, and I often embrace him and sigh over 



him, and tell him how I long to hear him 
speak." For several years Petrarch was un- 
able to find anyone who could read Homer to 
him or to secure a translation in either Italian 
or Latin. Later he made the acquaintance of 
a Calabrian Greek who knew Latin as well as 
his own native speech, and this Leontius Pila- 
tus translated into Latin some passages of 
Homer for Petrarch. 

This specimen translation so pleased Pe- 
trarch and Boccaccio that they urged him to 
make a complete translation of the Iliad and 
the Odyssey into Latin prose. Pilatus was in- 
vited to Florence, where in the home of Boc- 
caccio and at the expense of Petrarch he com- 
pleted this arduous task. 

The manuscripts of Pilatus were given to 
Petrarch and they are now preserved in the 
Bibliotheque Nationale. The marginal notes 
in Petrarch's own handwriting may be seen 
in these manuscripts and attest the zeal and 
enthusiasm aroused in that great scholar by 
the Homeric poetry. It is said that Petrarch 
died with a copy of Homer in his hands, and 
that copy may well have been these manu- 
scripts on which he so lovingly labored. 

Boccaccio was not a whit behind Petrarch 


in his admiration for Homer and he made free 
use of this translation by Pilatus in his own 
writings on the genealogy of the gods and in 
his comments on the Divina Commedia. 

The knowledge of Homer rapidly spread, so 
rapidly that Bevenuto da Imola who is sup- 
posed to have completed his commentary on 
the Divina Commedia in 1380 quoted or re- 
ferred to Homer about seventy times. 

The restoration of Homer to the life of Eu- 
rope was the joint work of Boccaccio and 
Petrarch; thus it lay right at the heart of the 

The eagerness to read Homer in his own lan- 
guage could be satisfied in very few because 
of the difficulty of securing old manuscripts 
and the great labor involved in making new 

The noble Florentine, Bernardo de' NerH, 
was eager to promote the study of Greek and 
after much consultation decided to publish the 
complete works of Homer. He furnished the 
means by which Demetrius Chalkondyles was 
enabled to edit and publish the first printed 
edition of Homer in Florence in 1488. 

Evidently there was a great demand for 
copies of Homer, a demand not easily satisfied, 



since Aldus Manutius printed an edition in 
Venice in 1504 and a second edition was pub- 
lished by this same Aldus in 151 7, and even a 
third in 1524. Meanwhile a Florentine printer, 
Giunta, had published in 15 19 the Editio Jun- 
tina, and in a few years there was printed in 
Rome the so-called Editio Romana. 

From Italy copies of Homer were soon car- 
ried throughout Europe, but the demand was 
so great that the Italian copies did not suffice, 
and four editions appeared from the press in 
Strassburg between 1525 and 1550, while two 
appeared in Basel in 1535 and 1541. Greek 
studies were rather late in getting a firm foot- 
ing in England and the first edition of Homer 
to be printed in London did not appear until 
1 59 1, or more than a century later than the 
first edition printed in Florence. 

Various treatises on epic poetry appeared 
early in Italy and Vida, the Bishop of Alba, 
again asked the question mentioned by Juvenal : 
" Which is the greater poet, Virgil or Homer? " 
a question which was long the source of many 
publications, as well as animosities. 

Homer and Virgil were alike regarded as 
furnishing the norm of epic poetry, not Homer 
alone, as had been done in the writings of 


Aristotle and in the criticism of the age of 

The danger from the advancing Turks which 
threatened Europe in the sixteenth century in- 
spired Tasso with the idea of creating a poem 
which hke the Iliad should describe a victori- 
ous attack on Asia by the forces of Europe, 
and thus retell the story of the Crusades in the 
manner of Homer. 

Before he set himself to this task he devoted 
his energies to the study and mastery of the 
Homeric poems and he wrote a series of dis- 
courses on poetry, especially heroic epic 

The contemplated poem, Jerusalem Lib- 
erated, was composed in this enthusiasm for 
Homer. The poem begins with " I sing," also 
an appeal to the Muse, while the introduction 
sets forth the general theme in the Homeric 
manner. The third and fourth verses: 

molto egli oprd col senno e con la mano 
molto soffrt nel glorioso acquisto 

are plainly in imitation of the third and fourth 
verses of the Odyssey, where each verse also 
begins with the Greek word for much or 



A quarrel of the heroes forms a central 
theme. There is also a dream sent to a leader, 
an assembly, a review of the army, and the 
Christian leaders are pointed out from the 
walls of the beleaguered city, also a duel and 
a traitorous shot which breaks the truce. 
Thersites has his coarse and babbling counter- 
part, and there is a procession like that sent to 
appease the goddess Athena. Throughout 
there are constant allusions which could hardly 
be understood by those ignorant of the Iliad 
and the Odyssey. 

One passage where he follows Homer is very 
illuminating and that is the one which de- 
scribes the distance of the island Pharos from 
Egypt and the Nile. The Odyssey says that 
Pharos is so remote from Egypt that a good 
ship with a fair breeze must spend an entire 
day in making the voyage. At the time of 
Tasso and of the Crusades which he describes, 
it was known that Pharos almost joined with 
Egypt, yet Tasso chose to follow Homer rather 
than known geographical conditions. It is 
likely that the description in the Odyssey rests 
on ignorance of the position of that island 
and that no important change has since 



Tasso took a leading part in the discussion 
of the relative merits of modern poets and of 
Homer, and in answer to the critics of Homer 
he said: "If among mortal men there is any- 
thing immortal, nothing can as surely be en- 
dowed with eternal life as the poetry of Homer. 
He is more secure from the attacks of criticism 
and censure than is the summit of Olympus 
from the assault of storm and winds." 

Italy went into intellectual decline in the 
seventeenth century, and the great cultural re- 
vival of the eighteenth century, " II Risorgi- 
mento," was largely associated with the zeal 
for Homer, and it is said that at that time 
scarcely an important man of letters in Italy 
was ignorant of Homer in his own original 
language. It was in this atmosphere that 
Winckelmann made his first sojourn in Italy. 
A leading place in contributions to the appre- 
ciation and interpretation of Homer has been 
held by Italian men of letters and scholars 
ever since the time of Petrarch. 

France, Spain, Holland, Scandinavia, Rus- 
sia, and Germany, as well as Switzerland and 
Austria, have been mightily influenced by 
Homer and many of them have played impor- 


tant parts in the great advancement of Homeric 
studies during the last three centuries, but 
any valuable discussion of the influence of 
Homer among these nations is impossible in 
a book of such limited dimensions. The 
work done by Finsler in his Homer in der 
Neuzeit ably covers much of the field. 



THE knowledge of Homer came to 
England directly from Italy, but cer- 
tain traditions connected with the 
story of Troy were known through Virgil, 
Dares, Dictys, and the epitome of the Iliad, 
Ilias Latina, made by the so-called Pindarus 

Both the French and the English believed 
that they were descended from the Trojans, 
hence they relied on the version assumed to be 
given by Dares, a Trojan priest of Vulcan. 

Chaucer could hardly have known Homer 
at first hand, but in his House of Fame he sees 
Homer standing on a pillar of honor : 

Ful wonder hye on a pileer 
0/ yren, he, the greete Omere, 

Trojan descendents could not look with fa- 
vor on the poet who had sung the glories of 
the Greeks, hence the verses: 

'^ut yit I gan jtd wet espie 
Betwix hem was a lit el envye, 



Oon seyde, that Omere made lyes 

Feynynge in his poetries 
And was to Grekes favorable. 

The sixteenth century was the beginning of 
genuine and direct Greek influence in England. 
More in his Utopia described such an enthu- 
siasm for the study of that language that all 
men were forced to become Hellenists by a 
decree of the senate of Utopia. 

During that century Greek became a part 
of the curriculum in the universities, texts of 
Greek authors were published in London; even 
the Court studied Aristotle, Plato, and the 
Greek orators and tragedians. About the mid- 
dle of the century Thomas Watson attempted 
a translation of Homer in English hexameters, 
and a little later Arthur Hall published a trans- 
lation of the first ten books of the Iliad.^^ 

Chapman achieved such a measure of suc- 
cess by his translation that he made Homer 
almost an English classic, and from this time to 
the present a knowledge of the contents of both 
the Iliad and the Odyssey has been part of the 
training of all educated Englishmen. 

At the same time that Chapman was busy 
with his translation, Spenser was at work on 



his Faerie Queene, a poem which is permeated 
with Homeric mythology. 

Shakespeare's productivity coincided in time 
with the translation of Chapman, a translation 
with which the poet was familiar, as is shown 
by the introduction into the story of Troilus 
and Cressida of the character of the common 
reviler, Thersites, since that figure is not found 
either in Chaucer or in the mediaeval romance. 
Added proof that Shakespeare was familiar 
with the story of the Iliad is found in the 
manner by which Achilles is called back into 
action, since Shakespeare follows the Homeric 
account that it was the death of Patroclus 
which made Achilles forego his anger, while in 
the other version he returned because of the 
exploits of Troilus. 

An outline of the tenth book of the Iliad is 
found in the words of Warwick: 

Our scouts have found the adventure very easy, 
That as Ulysses and stout Diomede 
With sleight and manhood stole to Rhesus^ tents 
And brought from thence the Thracian fatal steeds. 
Henry VI, Part III, iv, 2. 

It is in Milton that the real spirit of Homer 
found English utterance, and it was with 



Homer that Milton felt lifelong companion- 
ship. In a poem written when he was but 
eighteen, At a Vacation Exercise in the Col- 
lege, he wrote: 

Then sing of secret things that came to pass 
'^hen beldam nature in her cradle was; 
And last of kings and qtieens and heroes old, 
Stich as the wise Demodocus once told 
In solemn songs at king Alcinous' feast, 
While sad Ulysses* soul and all the rest 
Are held, with his melodious harmony. 
In willing chains and sweet captivity. 

The words " sad Ulysses' soul " show keen ob- 
servation and the genius of the poet. 

Camus is an Homeric poem in plan and set- 
ting. Comus was the son of Circe and like his 
mother carried the wand of the magician and 
gave his guests a potion which changed them 
into beasts. His attendants were the debased 
forms of human beings thus changed. 

Odysseus was able to escape from Circe be- 
cause of an herb, moly, which Hermes gave to 
him, and it was with just such an herb that the 
Good Spirit was able to baffle the efforts of 

Comus offers the lady a glass which was 
said to contain a drink so joy-inspiring that, 



"Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone 
In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena 
Is of such power to stir up joy as this. 

The Homeric word which designated eve- 
ning, " time for unyoking the oxen," becomes 
in the Camus: 

what time the laboured ox 
In his laose traces from the furrow came. 

The song sung to invite Sabrina to come and 
release the Lady from the enchanter's spell 
calls upon Oceanus, Neptune, Tethys, Nereus, 
Proteus, Leucothea, Thetis, and the Sirens; 
all of whom are Homeric divinities. 

Finally the Lady is released from the toils 
of Comus in much the same manner as the 
companions of Odysseus were restored to hu- 
man forms after they had been turned into 
swine by the drug of Circe. 

Milton in the Comus borrowed much from 
Homer, but it is first in Paradise Lost that he 
really caught the Homeric spirit; there it is 
not a matter of imitation but of a kindred mind 
rising to kindred heights. 

Dry den thought that no one had ever copied 
Homer with such success as Milton, but 


" copied '' seems hardly the right word, rather 
say, comprehended Homer. 

No translation gives me the thrill of the 
original; Chapman and Pope rarely strike the 
Homeric note, but when I read such verses as: 

HigMy they raged 
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms 
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war, 
Kwling defiance toward the vault of Heaven, 

I have all the sensations of reading Homer, 
for we have in these verses the grand style and 
the lofty melody. 

Milton in a preface to Paradise Lost said 
that in abandoning rhyme he was merely fol- 
lowing Homer. 

The first words of this poem are in direct 
imitation of the Iliad; then Milton picks up 
his story in the Homeric manner, for Homer 
asks : " Who was it joined these two to fight 
in strife? " then adds, "It was the son of Leto 
and of Zeus." Milton asks: 

What cause moved our grand Parents, to fall off 
From their Creator, 
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt? 

Then like Homer answers his own question: 
The infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile, etc, 



The last verse of the Iliad is the simple and 
quiet sentence: 

Thus then they buried Hector the knight. 

Milton with similarly calm verses ends Para- 
dise Lost: 

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, 
Through Eden took their solitary way. 

Homer describes the staff of the Cyclops 
thus: ^' As we gazed at his staff, we likened 
it to the mast of a broad merchantship, a 
ship with twenty oars, a ship which makes its 
way over the great sea, so tall and thick 
was it." 

This suggested to Milton the description of 
the spear or staff of Satan: 

H?5 spear — to equal which the tallest pine 
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast 
0/ some great ammiral, were but a wand, 
He walked with, to support uneasy steps. 

In the first book of the Iliad Homer tells how 
Zeus in anger hurled Hephaestus from 
Olympus: "He hurled me, having seized me 
by the foot, from the heavenly threshold, and 
I fell during the entire day, coming just at 



sunset to the isle of Lemnos, when life was 
almost gone." Milton in praising the archi- 
tect who created buildings for Satan, says: 

Nor was his name unheard or unadored 
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land 
Men called him Mulciber; and how he jell 
From Heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove 
Sheer o'er the crystal battlements: from morn 
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve, 
A summers day, and with the setting sun 
Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star, 
On Lemnos, the Aegean isle. 

Although this is all founded on Homer, no 
one could call it " copying." 

The great difference between Milton and 
Homer is that Milton had a theological pur- 
pose, to "justify the ways of God to men," 
hence his poetry is argumentative; he carries 
on a demonstration, while Homer simply tells 
a story. 

In sublimity, melody, and thought it seems 
to me that Milton can well claim equality with 
Homer, but in joining simplicity to sublimity 
Homer is all alone. Then Homer had the 
power to individualize almost numberless char- 
acters; he sympathized with the humblest, yet 
created the most exalted. Milton must remain 



the poet for the educated only, while Homer 
can be understood and enjoyed by all classes 
of people. Much of the interest we feel for 
Paradise Lost is aroused by our interest in the 
poet. Homer arouses that same interest and 
still remains hidden. 

The creations of Milton live only in his 
poetry, while those of Homer have moved out 
of the verses of the Iliad and the Odyssey and 
have become part of our traditions and our- 
selves. Helen, Ajax, Nestor, and Hector are 
now almost independent of Homer. 

The greatness of Milton is not in the story 
but in the language itself and no one, so far as 
I know, has collected for children or adults 
stories based on Paradise Lost, while there are 
scores of books retelling the tales of the Iliad 
and the Odyssey, and even the outcasts in 
Poker Flat are pictured by Bret Harte as 
getting cheer and inspiration from reading 
Pope's Iliad, even if they called Achilles 
" Asheels." 

During the time of Milton a translation of 
both the Iliad and the Odyssey was made by 
John Ogilby, but it obtained no great renown. 
A little later Thomas Hobbes, the famous phi- 



losopher, scientist, and author, translated both 
poems in iambic pentameter with alternate 
rhyming couplets. The introductory verses 
show the manner: 

O goddess sing what woe the discontent 

0/ Thetis' son brought to the Greeks: what souls 

0/ heroes down to Erebus it sent, 

Leaving their bodies unto dogs and fowls. 

" Discontent " hardly expresses Achilles' 
feelings of rage. 

Hobbes' rendering of the great scene which 
pictures Apollo's angry descent from Olympus 
will show how poorly the translator caught 
Homer's spirit and style: 

Hw prayer was granted by the deity: 
Who with his silver bow and arrows keen 

Descended from Olympus silently 
In likeness of the sable night unseen. 

His bow and quiver both behind him hang. 
The arrows chink as often as he jogs. 

Nothing could be worse than this last verse; 
yet such was the zeal of the public to be- 
come acquainted with Homer that three edi- 
tions of this work were soon demanded. 

This was the age of John Sheffield, Duke of 
Buckinghamshire, and his Essay on Poetry; 


the sum of his conclusions is expressed in the 
famous verses: 

Read Homer once, and you can read no more, 
For all books else appear so mean, so poor. 
Verse will seem prose; but still persist to read. 
And Homer will be all the books you need. 

Johnson wrote: " Dry den may properly be 
considered as the father of English criticism," 
and Sir Walter Scott ranked him in poetry 
" second only to Milton and Shakespeare.'' It 
is fortunate that Dryden exercised his powers 
both as a critic and a poet on the poetry of 
Homer. He wrote a critique of Homeric 
poetry, translated the first book of the Iliad 
as a preliminary to the whole, and his own 
original poetry teems with Homeric allusions 
and imitations. 

In the Preface to his Fables he writes : " I 
have found by trial Homer a more pleasing 
task than Vergil. For the Grecian is more ac- 
cording to my genius than the Latin poet. 
Vergil warms you by degrees; Homer sets you 
on fire all at once, and never intermits his 
heat." In a Dedication to Lord Radcliffe he 
refers to the bitter criticisms passed on Homer 
by Julius Scaliger and makes the famous com- 



parison: "He would turn down Homer, and 
abdicate him after the possession of three 
thousand years. Who would not sooner be 
that Homer than this Scaliger? " 

His own translation of the First Book of 
The Iliad is excellent, and the comparison 
made by Tennyson of parts of Dryden's trans- 
lation with that of Pope may apply to much of 
the whole: " What a difference between Pope's 
little poisonous barbs, and Dryden's strong 
invective! And how much more real poetic 
force there is in Dry den! Look at Pope: 

He said, observent of the blue-eyed maid, 
Then in the sheath returned the shining blade. 

Then at Dryden: 

He said; with surly faith believed her word, 

And in the sheath, reluctant, plunged the sword," 

In the years following Dryden, the begin- 
ning of the eighteenth century, Greek became 
almost a social necessity in England, so that 
Voltaire could later say that " few cultured 
English of his day were unfamiliar with Greek," 
and a knowledge of Greek meant a knowledge 
of Homer. Such writers as Temple, Wotton, 
Swift, and Addison show how keen the interest 
of the public was in discussions of that poet. 


The satire on Homeric criticism which Swift 
published in his Gulliver's Travels would have 
been lost on any but the most ardent Homeric 

There was danger at this time that literature 
would withdraw from observation of life and 
nature and depend solely on Homer, a course 
advised by Sheffield in his verse, " Homer will 
be all the books you need," and especially in 
the verses of the youthful Pope in his Essay 
On Criticism: 

Be Homer's works your study and delight. 
Read them by day, and meditate by night, 
Thence form your judgments, thence your maxims 

And trace the Muses upward to their spring. 

Pope, not only by his translation but in all 
his poems shows his great indebtedness to 
Homer, especially in his great success. The 
Rape of the Lock, where the high language of 
the Iliad is made to carry the most trivial 
theme. The adaptation of the disdainful oath 
of Achilles is superb: 

But by this lock, this sacred lock, I swear 
Which never more shall join its parted hair, 
Which never more its honors shall renew. 
Clipped from the lovely head where late it grew, 

[ 143 ] 


The furor raised by this poem testifies to the 
wide reading of the Homeric poems. 

Few men have ever received the honors and 
the rewards in their own day by their own 
original creations that Pope won by his trans- 
lation of Homer. It made him comparatively 
wealthy and absolutely famous. 

The industrious epic poets of this age were 
Blackmore, Glover, and Wilkie, whose writings 
were far more in bulk than Homer's, as they 
contained almost 100,000 verses. These poets 
set for themselves the ideal of taking Homeric 
materials, the Homeric example, and then 
rivalling Homer. The reviewers of their poems 
compared them with Homer and noted success 
or failure as they approached or departed from 
this standard. 

English letters in the middle of the eight- 
eenth century were saved from the morass 
of senseless imitation by the discovery of the 
poetic value of the old English ballads, espe- 
cially those in Thomas Percy's Reliques of An- 
dent English Poetryj 1765, and the publica- 
tion at the same time of the Complete Works of 
Ossian. Up to this time Homer had through 
the influence of the writings of Aristotle been 
the ideal of cultured poetry, and now by a 

[ 144 ] 


Strange stroke of fate he was found to be the 
representative of the ballad as well, and an 
entirely new aspect was assumed by the studies 
of the ballad and by the studies of Homer. 

The bards of the ballads were supposed to 
be kindred to the wandering bards who com- 
posed and recited the songs of Homer. Mac- 
pherson asserted that the songs of Ossian were 
not committed to writing, but were preserved 
in the memory of many generations of bards; 
a statement which gave birth to the theory 
that Homeric poetry had originated without 
writing and that it too had been long carried 
solely in the memory of the bards or minstrels. 

Homer was the ideal of English classicism, 
yet the swing away from that classicism was 
a swing towards Homer, and the first great 
English poet after Pope, one of the poets to 
lead the English writers back to simplicity, 
Cowper, felt it necessary to translate Homer in 
simpler, yet heroic verse. This translation at 
that time by such a poet as Cowper shows that 
thQ revulsion against the assumed followers of 
Homer was no revulsion against the poet 

It is a startling proof of the influence of 
Homer in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 



turies that Milton should have written the 
Comus and Paradise Lost, that Dryden should 
have completed in part a translation of the 
Iliad, and that both Pope and Cowper should 
have transferred the Homeric Poetry into 
English verse. It can be safely said that no 
other writer, not even Shakespeare, possessed 
anything approaching this influence in these 

The nineteenth century saw few real at- 
tempts to produce epics after the manner of 
Homer and Virgil. That period was given over 
to romantic poetry, to metaphysical introspec- 
tion, and to enthusiasm for science, rather than 
to the impersonal telling in a grand style of 
the story of the exploits of heroes. Byron 
said of his own Don Juan: 

My poem is epic, and is meant to he 
After the style of Virgil and Homer, 
So that my name of epic is no misnomer. 

Canto I, 200. 

It is hard to imagine a poem whose plan less 
resembles the Iliad or the Odyssey than Don 
Juan, as there is no beginning, no middle, and 
no end, and the detachment from his work of 
■the early epic poet is entirely lost. 


Byron speaks of Southey's longer poems: 
While SotUhey's epics cram the creaking shelves. 

Southey himself in his introduction to Modoc 
refused to call that poem an epic. 

The Idyls of the King are rather a grouping 
around a central theme than an ordered epic, 
while the lengthy poems of Morris are not 
poems of action and epic movement, and the 
two poems by Matthew Arnold, Sohrab and 
Rustum, and Balder Dead, although modeled 
on Homer, are rightly classed by the poet 
himself as '' Narrative Poems " and not as 

Professor Dixon was not wrong when he 
said: " The nineteenth century in England 
made no attempt to comply with the require- 
ments of formal epic." ^^ 

Wordsworth naturally showed little traces of 
Homeric influence, as his themes and his out- 
look were entirely foreign to the early classic 
epic, but in his Introduction to the Ode to 
Lye oris he tells of his early love for Homer and 
how he never wearied of going over the Homeric 
scenes; also, he wrote this critical judgment 
on a blank leaf of Ossian: 

Stich was blind Maeonides of ampler cast, 



Shelley was an Homeric enthusiast, and we 
know from his own diary that he read all of 
Homer in the winter of 1 8 14-15, and that he 
was working on the poetry of Homer in the 
year 181 7. He refers to Homer as '' King of 
Melody." And the beautiful chorus in which 
he voices the hope of a restored Hellas is 

A new Ulysses leaves once more 
Calypso for his native shore. 

Keats wrote his sonnet On First Looking 
Into Chapman's Homers also a sonnet To 
Homer, and took the Homeric description of 
the Titans for the main conception of the situ- 
ations of the first and second books of Hy- 
perion, while Homeric mythology and illustra- 
tions permeate his poetry. Elton says: 
" Keats moved away from Spenser towards 
Homer and got the grand style." "^ 

The favorite poet of the Victorian Age was 
Tennyson and his poetry is the voice of much 
of that great period.^^ He is said to have 
regularly taken with him on his travels a copy 
of Homer, to have translated aloud the Odys- 
sey to Mrs. Tennyson, and his last rational 


conversation was regarding Homer, as Doctor 
Walter Leaf himself with whom the conversa- 
tion was held, has told me. 

This life-long affection for Homer is shown 
by his poetry. He speaks of his English Idyls 
as ^' faint Homeric echoes, no thing- worth." 
Oenone, an epic fragment with the setting and 
colors of the Iliady The Lotos-Eaters, suggested 
by the story of the Odyssey, and the Choric 
Song, all read like Homer. In A Dream of 
Fair Women Helen appears and speaks as in 
the old epics. The home of the glorified 
knights is described exactly as Olympus is 
pictured in the Odyssey: 

Where falls not hail or any snow, 
'Nor ever wind blows lottdly. 

It was his Ulysses that brought him into the 
favor of the government and the poem which 
seemed especially to give him the feeling of 
great accomplishment. He tried his hand at 
putting parts of the Iliad into English verse, 
wrote a short poem in alternate hexameters 
and pentameters, On Translations of Homer, 
and in 1888 wrote another poem. To Ulysses, 
which begins with the verse: 

Vlysses, much-experienced man, 


words suggested by the first verse of the 

Near the end of his life he wrote Parnassus, 
closing with the optimistic verses: 

1/ the lips were touch' d with fire from off 

a pure Pierian altar, 
Tho* their music here be mortal need the 

singer greatly care? 
Other songs for other worlds! the fire 

within him would not falter; 
"Let the golden Iliad vanish, Homer here is 

Homer there. 

Not even Shakespeare so profoundly influ- 
enced the genius of Tennyson as did the poetry 
of Homer. 

The great critic of that same age was 
Matthew Arnold, who added to the sanity of 
a critic the genius of the poet. Arnold's most 
famous critical work is a series of essays On 
Translating Homer. In these essays he as- 
signs to Homer the first rank and says that 
Homer always composes at a level only reached 
by Shakespeare, when Shakespeare is at his 
best. Sohrab and Rustum is a Persian tale 
with Homeric incidents told in Homeric lan- 
guage, while Balder Dead is largely a trans- 



ference of Homeric speeches and plot to a 
Scandinavian legend. Such verses as these, to 
one who has like Ulysses come to the realm of 
the dead, 

Vnkappy, how hast thou endured to leave 
The light, and journey to the cheerless land 
V^here idly flit about the feeble shades? 

are boldly taken from the mouth of Anticlia, 
Ulysses' mother, and it seems startling to hear 
Balder quote a speech of Achilles: 

Gild me not my death! 
"better to live a serf, a captured man, 
Who scatters rushes in a master's hall, 
Than be a crown'd king here, and rule the dead. 

Homer is hardly less prominent in the thought 
of Arnold than he was in that of Aristotle, de- 
spite all the accomplishments of the interven- 
ing centuries. 

Ruskin was no less under the spell of Homer 
than was Arnold and he saw in him the ideal, 
the standard of literary excellence. Few parts 
of Homer were neglected by him, as I have 
found that he has quoted in his writings every 
book of the Iliad but one, and all the books of 



the Odyssey but three, or that he has quoted 
forty-four books in all. Some of these books 
are quoted many times, so that the quotations 
from Homer number several hundred, while 
the allusions are almost numberless, and they 
are found alike in his earliest and his latest 

In the mind of Ruskin Homer and culture 
are almost identical terms: " All Greek gentle- 
men were educated by Homer, all Roman 
gentlemen by Greek Literature, all Italian, 
French, and English gentlemen by Roman Lit- 
erature and its principles. It does not matter 
how much or how little one may have read of 
Homer everything has been moulded by him.'^ 

This universal indebtedness to Homer might 
seem to fail in the modern novel, but Emerson 
wrote in the same strain as Ruskin: " Every 
novel is debtor to Homer," and Emerson also 
wrote the verses: 

That wit and joy might have a tongue 
And earth grow civil Homer sung. 

Andrew Lang, the essayist, anthropologist, 
poet, and critic, wrote much in praise and in 
interpretation of Homer and collaborated in the 
famous prose translation of both the Iliad and 



the Odyssey. He used these striking words: 
" In the front of all poetry stands the poetry 
of Hellas, and in its foremost rank stands the 
epic of Homer. If we were offered the un- 
happy choice whether we should lose Homer 
and keep the rest of Greek poetry, or keep the 
rest and lose Homer, there could be little doubt 
as to our choice. We would rescue the Iliad 
and the Odyssey.*' ^^ 

That remarkable sentence was written by a 
man who appreciated Sappho, Pindar, Aeschy- 
lus, Sophocles, and the illustrious rest, and 
who knew literature as few men of any age 
have known it. 

Stephen Phillips founded his Marpessa on 
the story told by Phoenix in the ninth book of 
the Iliady and his Ulysses is a dramatic version 
of the Odyssey. His great scene between 
Ulysses and Calypso retells a like scene found 
in the fifth book of the ancient poem, while all 
the scenes in the palace of the hero and in 
Ithaca are based on the Homeric original. 

Phillips caught the Homeric spirit, and the 
verse in which Penelope describes to her ab- 
sent husband, to whom she appeals in her 
imagination, the maturity of Telemachus: 
Thy son is tall, thou wilt be glad of him 



shows the keenest comprehension of Greek 
feeling and Homeric simplicity. 

Ulysses in Homer yearned rather for his 
kingdom and lost power than for his wife, but 
Phillips, following modern sentiment, made 
love for the wife the compelling passion, but, 
even so, there are few poets in any age who 
have been better interpreters of that great epic. 

A little book by Arthur Machen, Hiero- 
glyphics y tries to fix a standard by which really 
great literature is to be judged and reaches the 
conclusion that all such literature is to be 
tested by the measure of its resemblance to 
Homer. For this standard he selects the 
Odyssey but is unable to tell in what the ex- 
cellence of that poem consists or to give the 
reasons for his choice : " We have only to bow 
down before the great music of the Odyssey y 
recognizing that by the very reason of its tran- 
scendent beauty, by the very fact that it tres- 
passes far beyond the world of our daily lives, 
beyond selection and reflection, it is also ex- 
alted above our understanding, that because 
its beauty is supreme, therefore its beauty is 
largely beyond criticism. For ourselves we 
do not need to prove its transcendence of life 
by this or that extraordinary incident; it is 



the whole spirit and essence and sound and 
colour of the song that affect us; and we 
know that the Odyssey surpassed the bounds 
of its own age and its own land just as much 
as it surpasses those of our time and own 

Appreciation of Homer in England never be- 
came professional and academic, even if the 
universities have taken an illustrious part in 
Homeric studies, but it has been shared by 
cultured men in all walks of life. Chapman, 
Milton, Dryden, Addison, Swift, Pope, Cow- 
per, Tennyson, Arnold, Ruskin, Symonds, 
Lang, Stephen Phillips, Samuel Butler, Arthur 
S. Way, William Morris, and Mackail were 
poets or men of letters; Hobbes, who trans- 
lated Homer, was a philosopher; Edmund 
Burke, who drew largely on Homer for the 
arguments and illustrations used in his Philo- 
sophical Enquiry into the Origin of the Sub- 
lime and the Beautiful, was philosopher, orator, 
and statesman; Robert Wood, whose travels 
and investigation of Homeric lands opened up 
a new field of studies, was a statesman and 
traveler. Robert Wood tells the following in- 
cident concerning Lord Granville, which shows 



how familiar that statesman was with Homer 
and what familiarity could be expected in 
others: '' Being directed to wait upon his lord- 
ship with the preliminary articles of the Treaty 
of Paris, I found him so languid, that I pro- 
posed postponing my business, but his lord- 
ship insisted that neglect of duty could not 
prolong his Hfe and repeated with calm and 
determined resignation seven verses in the 
original of the speech of Sarpedon." These 
seven verses are thus translated by the Earl of 

O friend! if we, survivors of this war, 
Cotdd live, from age and death for ever free, 
Thou shouldst not see me foremost in the fight, 
Nor would I urge thee to the glorious field: 
But since on man ten thousand forms of death 
Attend, which none may 'scape, then on, that we 
May glory on others gain, or they on us. 

It is hardly less remarkable that this aged 
statesman should have uttered these words of 
Homer than that this subordinate should 
have instantly caught their meaning and their 

Colonel William Mure of Caldwell, the great 
champion of a single Homer and brilliant 



Homeric scholar, was for many years a mem- 
ber of Parliament. 

The Earl of Derby, three times prime min- 
ister, translated the entire Iliad into the heroic 
verse of Milton; a translation which is re- 
garded by many as the best in our language. 

Gladstone, four times prime minister, was a 
constant producer of books and pamphlets on 
Homer, and he has the great distinction of be- 
ing the first to turn public attention to the 
importance of the excavations made by Schlie- 
mann, and Schliemann reciprocated by dedi- 
cating to him the book which told of the 
astounding discoveries made at Mycenae. 

Grote, the banker, started a new epoch in 
theories of Homeric composition by his work 
on the origin of the Iliad; and two of the out- 
standing Homeric scholars of our own day 
are Walter Leaf, a leading banker, and Alex- 
ander Shewan, formerly of the East India 

Payne Knight, editor of a famous edition of 
Homer, was a wealthy art-connoisseur and a 
dilettante; Henry Dunbar, compiler of a Con- 
cordance to the Odyssey f was a distinguished 
physician; Austin Smyth, author of a book on 
the composition of the Iliad, is librarian of the 



House of Commons; and H. B. Cotterill is a 
critic and historian of art, while a long line of 
clergymen or men who have received holy 
orders, extending from Bentley to Collins, be- 
came illustrious by reason of contributions to 
the appreciation of Homer. 

The influence of Homeric poetry in England 
has been both broad and deep, hardly less felt 
there than in ancient Greece and Italy. 



HOMER is now only partially repre- 
sented by the pages of the Iliad and 
the Odyssey y for if these poems could 
somehow be erased from the minds and tradi- 
tions of men, his influence would be lessened 
but not destroyed. The Iliad and the Odyssey 
are like a great investment which has been ac- 
cumulating interest, compound interest, for 
nearly two thousand years. 

He is the man with the five talents who has 
gone out and made with them other five talents, 
and he has been thus occupied for many cen- 
turies, so that Homer now represents not only 
the principal but also the accrued interest. He 
has drawn interest for only about two thou- 
sand years, since his talents were hid in dark- 
ness if not in a napkin for about a millennium, 
that is during the centuries before the revival 
of learning. 

The accomplishments in epic poetry have all 
been due to him, and no European poet unin- 



fluenced bjr Homer has ever succeeded^ in the 
epic sphere.««^.«.. 

Elegiac poetry began with the Homeric dia- 
lect, with the Homeric meter slightly modified, 
and flourished in Homeric soil. The early 
elegiac poets practically confined their vocabu- 
lary to words which had already been used by 

Homer was jca^^^^^ th^, fir s t o f the dramatists . 
Aeschylus said in pride and not in humility 
that his plays were courses from the Homeric 
feast, and the Athenian drama was so thor- 
oughly under the spell of Homer that a Victor 
Hugo could write: "All the ancient authors 
of tragedy retail Homer, — the same fables, 
the same catastrophes, the same heroes. All 
draw their waters from the Homeric rivers. 
It is everlastingly the Iliad and the Odyssey 
over again." 

Literary criticism became scientific in Aris- 
totle's Poetics which was based on the Iliad 
and the Odyssey as standards, while Horace, 
Longinus, Sidney, and Saintsbury have fol- 
lowed in his steps. Pope cleverly says that 
Aristotle in his literary theories was guided by 
the Maeonian star. 

Herodotus and the Greeks generally looked 


upon Homer as the creator of history and one 
of those who had given to Hellas a definite and 
workable mythology and theology. 

Homer was also considered as th ^ (jisrovftrer,. 
of the true principles which regulate effective 
public speaking; Quintilian in his great work, 

written almost one thousand years after Homer, 
said of him: "Homer not only gave birth to 
but has furnished an example of every distin- 
guished sort of oratory. No one has ever sur- 
passed him in treating great matters sublimely 
or small things fittingly. He is both diffuse 
and contracted, delightful and dignified, won- 
derful alike by his abundance and his brevity, 
most eminent not only in the greatness of a 
poet but also in the greatness of an orator." 

He was regarded as the father of philosophi- 
caPand etHical doctrines not only by his own 
"people but by the Romans as well. Horace 
wrote to his friend Lollius: "While you are 
reciting Homer at Rome I have re-read him at 
Praeneste. He tells us better than the philoso- 
phers Chrysippus and Grantor, what is honor- 
able or disgraceful, what is useful or vain." 
Then Horace points out how certain moral 
qualities are made vital in the lives of Nestor, 
Ulysses, Paris, and other Homeric actors. 


Physicians have seen in the accuracy with 
which wounds, their results and their treatment 
have been described, a sure indication that 
the poet himself was a physician, while mili- 
tary leaders have read these same poems and 
been convinced that he was a tactician. 

Homer's sympathetic and exact portrayal of 
so many forms of vegetable and animal life 
shows that he was a most careful observer, 
even if he was not a trained naturalist, while 
his descriptions of gardens, armor, and espe- 
cially of the shield of Achilles prove that he 
had the heart and the eye of the artist. 

Homer is coequal with all classes of men; as 
he is contemporary with all ages, he does not 
grow out of date. We feel that Chapman, 
Pope, and Cowper belong to times that are no 
more, while Homer is young, fresh, and of our 
own day. 

The greatness of Homer consists in this that 
he saw things and people exactly as they are 
and he could describe all these in such clear 
and simple language that we can see them too. 
This is the reason that a child can comprehend 
him, and that the wisest man knows that the 
greatness of Homer, with its simplicity, lies 
just beyond his grasp. 



Sir Walter Scott read with enthusiasm Pope's 
Homer before he was of school age, and Brown- 
ing at five was thrilled by the story of the 
Iliad which his father made realistic for him. 
Schliemann when a poor outcast boy at work 
in poverty and misery heard the sounds of 
hope in the music of Homer and saw a great 
vision. Schliemann's career of almost fabulous 
achievements was due to the persistence with 
which he followed that Homeric vision. 

It is a long reach from the boyhood of these 
three to the maturity of an Aristotle, a Milton, 
and a Tennyson, but the one group seems 
hardly nearer to Homer than the other. 

It is easy to gauge the mental stature of one 
who enjoys Milton, Emerson, or Browning by 
the very fact of that enjoyment, but the appre- 
ciation of Homer is conditioned by no mental 
or educational tests, for he adapts himself to 
all who read him and to all who hear him. 

When Homer says of the laughter of the 
angry Hera, '' She laughed with her lips, but 
there was no joy in her face," or when he said 
of the cup given by grudging charity, " It 
moistens the lip but it does not reach to the 
palate," or when he tells of the captive women 
who joined Briseis in her lamentations, '' They 



wept, seemingly for Patroclus, but each was 
thinking only of her own sorrow," he goes so 
much deeper and says so much more than the 
few words seem to imply. 

The ability to clothe great ideas in simple 

language and to put the weightiest permanent 

lfu!Ksiht0 noble and lucid form gives a suffi- 

"cient guarantee for the continued influence of 



All translations are by the author, unless the source is 


1. Leaf, Walter, " The Manuscripts of the Iliad," in 
The Journal of Philology, XVIII, (1890), 180-210. 

2. Julian, 347 C. 

3. This Inscription is published in Oxford Homer, V, 


4. Schmidt, Nathaniel, " Bellerophon's Tablet and the 
Homeric Question in the Light of Oriental Research," in 
Transactions and Proceedings, Am. Phil. Association, LI, 
(1920), 56-70. Professor Schmidt sees in the folded clay- 
tablets of Babylon the explanation of the secret message 
carried to Lycia. 

5. Shepard, W. P., " Chansons de Geste and the 
Homeric Problem," in American Journal of Philology, 
XLII, (1921), 193-233. This article has never attracted 
the attention it so richly deserves. The many parallels are 
most illuminating. 

6. Scott, John A., The Unity of Homer. Berkeley, 
California, 192 1. In this the discussion of the origin of 
the Homeric poems is given at length, and it also contains 
a somewhat extended bibliography of that subject. Hence 
the omission of both discussion and bibliography in this 

7. Wirth, Hermann, Homer und Babylon, pp. 19 ff. 
Freiburg, 192 1. 

8. Leaf, Walter, Troy, A Study in Homeric Geography, 
London, 191 2, contains an extended and most valuable dis- 
cussion of the historical setting of the Iliad. His Homer 
and History, London, 1915, takes up the history and geog- 
raphy of the Greek '* Catalogue of Ships " and of the 

9. Robert, Carl, Bild und Lied, Archaeologische Bei- 
trage zur Geschichte der griechischen Heldensage, 95 ff. 


Volume V of the Philologische Untersttchungen edited by 
A. Kiessling and U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. 

10. Breal, M., Pour Mieux Connaitre Homere, p. 104. 
Paris, no date. 

11. Keller, Helen Adams, The Story of My Life, p. no. 
New York, 1902. 

12. Lubbock, Sir John, Introduction to Pope's Iliad. 
London, 1891. Sir John quotes Pope's translation of Iliad 
VI, 263, to prove that Hector regarded Paris as the hus- 
band of Helen and not her paramour. " But thou thy hus- 
band rouse and let him speed." The real translation is, 
"But send thou this man on." The word husband is not 
suggested by the original. 

13. Coleridge, S. T., Biographia Literaria, II, 11. 

14. The Goblet of Life, ninth stanza. 

15. Napoleon while encamped on the plains of Lom- 
bardy is said to have brooded over the fate of Achilles. 
Symonds, J. A., Studies of the Greek Lyric Poets, I, 123. 

16. The figures for similes and tropes are given by 
Rothe, Karl, in Die Odyssee als Dichtung, p. 266. Pader- 
born, 1914. 

17. Dixon, W. M., English Epic and Heroic Poetry, p. 
20. London, 191 2. 

18. Sheppard, J. T., The Pattern of the Iliad. London, 

19. Evans, Sir Arthur, Palace of Minos at Knossos, p. 
698. London, 1921. 

20. Spiess, Heinrich, Menschenart und Heldentum in 
Homers Ilias. Paderbom, 1913. 

21. Dixon, page 24 of work just quoted. 

22. On Homer as the " poet," Professor A. M. Harmon 
in Classical Philology, XVIII, (1923), pp. 35 ff. and a paper 
by me in The Classical Journal, XVII, (1922), pp. 330 ff. 

23. These figures are those of Sir Frederic Kenyon as 
published in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, XXXIX, 
(1919), pp. I ff. Since the publishing of his figures im- 
portant Homeric papyri have been discovered and pub- 
lished by professors of the University of Michigan. 

24. Symonds, J. A., Studies in the Greek Poets, Chapter 


on Alexander, suggested to me this paragraph on Achilles 
and Alexander. 

25. The article on " Ennius " in Pauly-Wissowa. 

26. Conington, John, Introdttction to the Aeneid. 
London, 1872-6. 

27. This chapter on the Renaissance is heavily in- 
debted to Finsler, Georg, Homer in der Neuzeit von Dante 
bis Goethe, Leipzig und Berlin, 1912; also to a paper by 
Professor Cornelia G. Coulter, not yet published; and to 
Toynbee, Paget, Dante Studies and Researches. London, 

28. Dixon, the work already quoted, p. 278. 

29. Elton, Oliver, A Survey of English Literature from 
J830-1880. London, 1912. 

30. Mustard, W. P., Classical Echoes in Tennyson. 
New York, 1904. This little book is a remarkable com- 
bination of erudition and literary appreciation. 

31. Lang, Andrew, Homer and the Epic, p. 3. London, 

32. Wood, Robert, The Original Genius of Homer, Page 
VIL London, 1769. 

Several books to which I have not referred in the above 
list have been much used by me. 
Allen, T. W., Homer, The Origins and the Transmission. 

Oxford, 1924. 
Drerup, Engelbert, Homerische Poetik, Vol. I. Wuerz- 

burg, 1921. 
LuDWiCH, Arthur, Aristarchs homerische Textkritik. Leip- 
zig, 1884-S. 
Mackail, J. W., Virgil, in the Series " Our Debt to Greece 

and Rome." Boston, 1922. 
Stuermer, Franz, Homerische Poetik, Vol. III. Wuteri- 

burg, 192 1. 
ToLKiEHN, J., " de Homeri auctoritate in Romanorum 

vita," in Jahrbb. f. c. Phil. SuppL, XXIII, 222-289 

ToLKiEHN, J., Homer und die roemische Poesie. Leipzig, 


Our Debt to Greece and Rome 


Homer. John A. Scott. 

Sappho. David M. Robinson. 

Euripides. F. L. Lucas. 

Aristophanes. Louis E. Lord. 

Demosthenes. Charles D. Adams. 

The Poetics of Aristotle. Lane Cooper. 

Greek Rhetoric and Literary Criticism. W. 
Rhys Roberts. 

LuciAN. Francis G. Allinson. 

Cicero and His Influence. John C. Rolfe. 

T^ATULLUS. Karl P. Harrington. 

Lucretius and His Influence. George Depue 

Ovid. Edward Kennard Rand. 

Horace. Grant Showerman. 

_ymGiL. John William Mackail. 

Seneca The Philosopher. Richard Mott Gum- 

Apuleius. Elizabeth Hazelton Haight. 

Martial. Paul Nixon. 

Platonism. Alfred Edward Taylor. 

Aristotelianism. John L. Stocks. 

Stoicism. Robert Mark Wenley. 

Language and Philology. Roland G. Kent. 


Aeschylus and Sophocles. /. T. Sheppard. 

Greek Religion. Walter Woodburn Hyde. 

Survivals of Roman Religion. Gordon J. Laing. 

Mythology. Jane Ellen Harrison. 

Ancient Beliefs in The Immortality of The 
Soul. Clifford H. Moore. 

Stage Antiquities. James Turney Allen. 

Plautus and Terence. Gilbert Norwood. 

Roman Politics. Frank Frost Abbott. 

Psychology, Ancient and Modern. G. S. Brett. 

Ancient and Modern Rome. Rodolfo Lanciani. 

Warfare by Land and Sea. Eugene S. Mc- 

The Greek Fathers. James Marshall Campbell. 

Greek Biology and Medicine. Henry Osborn 

Mathematics. David Eugene Smith. 

Love of Nature among the Greeks and Rom- 
ans. H. R. Fairclough. 

Ancient Writing and its Influence. B. L. 

Greek Art. Arthur Fairbanks. 

Architecture. Alfred M. Brooks. 

Engineering. Alexander P. Gest. 

Modern Traits in Old Greek Life. Charles 
Burton Gulick. 

Roman Private Life. Walton Brooks McDaniel. 

Greek and Roman Folklore. William Reginald 

Ancient Education. /. F. Dobson. 


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